COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - There is a renewed push in the State House to ban plastic bag bans.
Bill S.394 wants to make the General Assembly the only body in South Carolina that can regulate auxiliary containers. The bill would also supersede or nullify any bans that have been put in place.
The push comes from grocery stores and other retailers. The South Carolina Retail Association testified before a Senate subcommittee Wednesday morning.
“Placing the burden of the state’s litter problem on retailers is not an effective solution,” SCRA Executive Director Rebecca Leach said.
Leach also said the SCRA supports the effort to stop local governments from creating plastic bag bans.
Phillip Payment with W. Lee Flowers retail stores said requiring small grocery stores to switch to paper bags from plastic bags is costly.
“In small rural locations, we might be pressured to close, which would create a food desert,” he said.
The South Carolina Retail Association said they would to see some uniformity.
“It is confusing for retailers. Not only for them, but it is confusing for customers, as well as tourist who come to our state,” Leach said.
The bill defines auxiliary containers as a bag, cup, package, device, container, bottle, or other packaging that is:
(1) designed to be either reusable or single-use;
(2) made of cloth; paper; plastic, including foamed or expanded plastic; cardboard; expanded polystyrene; corrugated material; aluminum; glass; or postconsumer recycled, or similar, material or substrates, including coated, laminated, or multilayer substrates; and
(3) designed for, but not limited to, consuming, transporting, or protecting merchandise, food, or beverages from or at a food service or retail facility
This includes plastic bags.
There are at least 10 municipalities and one county that have some sort of auxiliary container ordinance in place. Surfside Beach, Beaufort County, Beaufort, Bluffton, Arcadia Lakes, Charleston, Folly Beach, Hilton Head Island, Port Royal, Isles of Palms and Mount Pleasant are some of the places in South Carolina that have some sort of auxiliary container ban.
“We as a coastal town have different needs,” Mount Pleasant Mayor Will Haynie said. “We have tourism that is different from the rest of the state. We have a seafood industry that is different from the rest of the state. We have marches, estuaries, and an ocean.”
He said their plastic bag ban goes into effect in April of this year. They’ve worked closely with stakeholders and grocery stores in the town.
“There are certain types of plastic that are exempt for example for prepared foods in a grocery store. We are happy to fix that language so they know they were exempt all along,” he said.
Haynie also said there is a hardship exception. If a business will be forced to close down because of the switch from plastic bags, they can apply for the hardship and be granted an exception. Haynie said they have not received any applications.
Beaufort County Council Vice Chairman Paul Sommerville testified before the subcommittee. He said in Beaufort County they have cleaned up their beaches by requiring stores to use a heavier, reusable type of plastic bag. He said they’ve made a big push to educate their citizens. More people are taking pride in keeping their county clean.
“What we’re really trying to do is modify people’s behavior,” he said.
The Senate subcommittee said they will be holding more meetings in the future to discuss this bill.
S.394 does not prohibit local governments from banning auxiliary containers on beaches, parks and near waterways.