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Groups: COVID No Reason to Ax Plastic-Bag Bans

An estimated $4 million in tax dollars are spent annually to clean up litter alongside Ohio's highways. (AdobeStock)
An estimated $4 million in tax dollars are spent annually to clean up litter alongside Ohio's highways. (AdobeStock)
October 1, 2020

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Opponents of a bill that would thwart local plastic-bag bans are making an eleventh-hour plea to Gov. Mike DeWine to veto the legislation.

If signed into law, House Bill 242 would temporarily prohibit cities and towns from imposing a fee on single-use plastic bags and containers.

The governor has indicated he would sign the one-year moratorium bill, citing concerns that the coronavirus would be more likely to spread through the use of reusable bags and containers.

Elizabeth Ellman, chair of the Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee helped pass a plastic-bag ban in Bexley. She said that theory has been debunked.

"Entire states have deemed single-use plastic bag bans to be safe and are therefore reinstituting their bans," Ellman said. "Prohibiting governments that can implement single-use plastic bag bans safely from doing so infringes on their rights to protect members of their communities."

Ellman explained research has shown that COVID-19 can live on single-use plastic longer than more porous materials, like cloth or paper.

Elisa Yoder Mann, conservation program manager for Sierra Club Ohio, said even though it's only a year-long moratorium, the bill moves Ohio in the wrong direction.

She said more than five million pounds of plastic litter is in Lake Erie, and four million tax dollars are spent each year removing litter from the state's highways.

"This is a serious problem," Mann said. "And it's very costly. So to see decision makers at the Statehouse ignoring this problem and creating legislation that pretty much thumbs their nose at creating a solution is really concerning."

Supporters of the legislation argue it would end a patchwork of regulations that are confusing to consumers. However, Mann countered other policies vary depending on locality.

"We see this in what counties sell liquor on Sundays and which ones don't," Mann added. "People can successfully live their lives by having this patchwork of policies. It's not as destructive to businesses, to community members and citizens as they like to portray it."

Mann contends the push for the legislation is driven by the plastics industry, which is planning the development of a petrochemical hub in southern Ohio that would manufacture plastics.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, Ohio Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Energy Policy, Public Lands/Wilderness, Urban Planning/Transportation, and Water. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH