Richland County moves forward with goal of banning plastic bags

Richland County moves forward with goal of banning plastic bags
Updated: Jul. 24, 2018 at 6:56 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - In a way, the Piggly Wiggly on Devine Street is an orchestra.

There's the "beep-beep" of groceries gliding gracefully across the scanner. There's the percussion of rickety shopping carts outside. There's also the constant crinkle of plastic bags peeled off what seems like a never-ending stack.

The only problem - that third orchestra member might soon be let go because Richland County might soon pass a ban on plastic bags. If so, it would become the first inland county in the state to do so.

"You know, I think we need to help the environment, so if it helps, you know, might be a good thing to try," said David Brandon, a frequent shopper.

"We've got something that is so light, the littlest of breezes just blows it away, and I don't believe we have that many people that are going to be chasing after that plastic bag when you probably have about another half a dozen sitting right there," adds Bill Malinowski, a Richland County Councilman.

Malinowski believes plastic bags in Richland County could be killing sea life along the coast, so he's proposing the ban - along with Councilman Norman Jackson - that's already attracting bipartisan support on council.

"Plastic bags can take hundreds of years to break down, whereas a paper towel can take one month," said Councilman Seth Rose. "A piece of plywood can take a year."

Back at the Pig, not everyone is sold on the idea.

"I am opposed to it, because we use so many plastic bags for so many different things around the house: trash bags, putting your lunch in," said Shirley Goodman.

However, most of the shoppers WIS polled thought the orchestra would sound just as sweet without the plastic bags.

If Richland County is successful, it would only apply to the county, not stores in the City of Columbia (including the Devine Street Piggly Wiggly). However, Malinowski hopes the city - and other Richland County municipalities - will follow the county's lead. He encourages citizens in those areas to contact their elected leaders.

"I appreciate the County Council seriously looking at a more sustainable future," wrote Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. "Though we have not yet discussed it as a council, I do know that the idea has some support with individual council members."

On Tuesday, Rose moved to have staff members come up with how the ban would be implemented. That plan will be reviewed at the next committee meeting to include seeing what other counties have done to implement the ban.

If the county is successful, it won't be the first in the state to pass a plastic bag ban. Beaufort County and its municipalities have already passed a ban that'll go into effect in November. Mount Pleasant, Folly Beach, and a few other coastal towns have passed similar bans.

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