An effort by the plastic bag industry to prevent local prohibitions on the handy but polluting sacks crashed Tuesday in the Legislature.
Environmentalists were ecstatic that the House of Representatives voted to stop a bill preventing cities and counties from banning plastic bags. The House voted to end debate on the legislation. The 50-49 House vote likely kills the bill for the year.
State Rep. James Smith, D-Richland, said a coalition of Democrats and Republicans worked to derail the legislation.
“We clinched it; it is completely done’’ for the legislative session, Smith said. “We had strong bi-partisan support.’’
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Novolex, a national player in the plastic bag industry, has spoken in favor of banning local prohibitions on plastic bags. The company, headquartered in Hartsville, employs more than 7,000 people at 49 North American sites. The corporation makes plastic bags, as well as other products.
Continuing to let cities ban plastic bags would be confusing and costly, industry supporters argue. Industry backers say they favor uniform state standards for the easy-to-carry shopping bags. State Rep. Eric Bedingfield, R-Greenville, led efforts to stop local plastic bag bans.
But plastic bags are substantial sources of litter across South Carolina’s landscape and in the ocean. Rare sea turtles that mistake plastic bags for prey can die as the material clogs their insides.
On the coast, Folly Beach and the Isle of Palms have adopted ordinances restricting the use of plastic bags. Bans adopted across the country often make it illegal for stores to distribute the bags. That means people must bring their own bags or use paper bags that stores supply.
The S.C. Coastal Conservation League and the Conservation Voters of South Carolina said cities and counties should have the ability to decide whether they want plastic bags in their communities. The bill, H3529, would have prevented that.
“The plastic bag bill was an affront on home rule, an attack on the ability of local communities to find local solutions to local problems,’’ said John Tynan, director of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina.
Katie Zimmerman, a program director at the Conservation League, said lawmakers got the message that people wanted to retain the right locally to adopt the bag bans. In a statement Tuesday night, she said the league appreciated the lawmakers who “stood up for coastal communities and the fishing and tourism businesses that support them.’’