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South Dakota Bill Aims to Ban Bans on Single-Use Plastic

Plastic accounts for 10% of all the earth's waste, according to the World Economic Forum. (masspirg.org)
Plastic accounts for 10% of all the earth's waste, according to the World Economic Forum. (masspirg.org)
February 14, 2020

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- When major flooding occurs across South Dakota, it leaves riverbanks littered with trash, including lots of single-use plastics. But a bill aimed at stopping local governments from banning plastic and other "auxiliary containers" has nonetheless moved forward in Pierre.

Members of the group Friends of the Big Sioux River spoke against Senate Bill 54. The group's managing director, Travis Entenman, said flooding in recent years has shown the extent of the problems that plastics cause.

"The bags and the litter along the banks of the Big Sioux, it kind of looks like a landfill a little bit after flooding," he said. "All that garbage just flows over to the river and gets stuck on vegetation, and gets caught in different things."

The law to prevent local communities from banning single-use plastics passed a House committee this week and now goes to the House floor, before potentially ending up on Gov. Kristi Noem's desk. It is similar to bills passed in neighboring states such as North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, while other states have banned single-use plastics or charge a small fee to consumers.

According to the latest data, from 2011, only 2.4% of South Dakota's plastic was diverted from landfills by recycling. Friends of the Big Sioux River has been working with major businesses in Sioux Falls to help them reduce their dependence on single-use plastics. Entenman said he thinks local communities should have control over the issue, and also believes the bill is bucking the national trend.

"Nationally, people are moving away from plastic use and they're moving away from single-use plastics," he said, "and that trend will more than likely hit South Dakota eventually -- so, this bill directly goes against that."

The bill's sponsor, Sen. John Wiik, R-Big Stone City, said his goal is to create fairness for businesses in the state and argued that banning plastics would stifle innovation. Lobbyist Bill Van Camp with the South Dakota Retailer's Association encouraged lawmakers to pass the bill, saying plastic-bag contamination isn't relevant to South Dakota but instead is a problem in Africa and Asia.

The text of SB 54 is online at sdlegislature.gov.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD