It’s cool to be a local. Wherever “local” is for you, a special pride comes from having input on community affairs. Along the South Carolina coast, residents have started to voice their opinion on plastic pollution. Currently, more than a dozen cities and counties have passed plastic-bag bans, joining a national movement aimed at reducing plastic pollution and its harmful effects on our environment.
In 1975, The Home Rule Act was passed and designed to reinforce the efforts of local citizens in governing their communities. Meant to limit state influence in local affairs, it gave local governments the power to pass regulations and ordinances “for preserving health, peace, order, and good government.” Recently, these noble efforts, along with the well-being of our natural environment, have come under attack. State Senate Bill 394: Auxiliary Containers, seeks to rob coastal communities of the right to individually enact and enforce plastic bag bans. This bill will give the power to regulate plastic bags solely to the SC General Assembly. Furthermore, lacking a Grandfather clause, it will roll back existing local plastic bag bans and prohibit future restrictions on bags, bottles, packaging, and other disposable or reusable containers.
This is largely legislative pandering towards Novolex, a plastic bag manufacturer. Headquartered in Hartsville, SC, the company employs nearly 10,000 people worldwide and contributes over $34 million to the South Carolina economy annually. Moving sole jurisdiction of these decisions to the state level ensures that the battle only has to be fought once. Tigerron Wells, director of governmental affairs for the Municipal Association of South Carolina explains, “Oftentimes, a corporate interest (prefers) to go to the state level to preempt and secure their ability to operate freely when there’s a possibility local authority could be used in a way they don’t like.” To achieve this objective, Novolex is a part of the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) which spent almost $88,000 over the last two years lobbying SC lawmakers to ban local plastic bag bans.
These nefarious tactics are working. On April 11th, the Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee voted to move the proposed ban on local single-use plastic bans forward to the Senate floor. The APBA and others in support of overturning bag bans say that differing local regulations will lead to higher costs for businesses, particularly small businesses. Yet Emily Cedzo with the SC Coastal Conservation League says that “Communities that enact plastic bag bans almost always do so after working with grocery stores and other businesses that rely on them for a smooth transition.” “The reality is that not one size fits all,” said Michael Kent Lesesne, senior staff attorney with the S.C. Association of Counties, which represents counties eager to ban plastic bags.
This bill is now headed to the senate floor for a vote.The Coastal Conservation League, with a mission to protect the threatened resources of the South Carolina coastal plain, is a great source of information on this and other conservation efforts. Please help spread the word by sharing this post. Coastal counties are disproportionally impacted by plastic pollution. Companies responsible for this are robbing locals of a legislative voice to express their values. Financial profits are not the only bottomline. In order to preserve the communal existence of all species, we must adopt a tri-faceted bottom line of not only profit, but planet and people as well.