COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio lawmakers are considering legislation that would prohibit communities from banning plastic bags. But who stands to benefit?
Supporters of House Bill 625 and Senate Bill 210 claim imposing local taxes on single-use containers, including plastic bags, are a burden on business, and could result in higher costs for shoppers. However, Cheryl Johncox, organizer with the Sierra Club's Dirty Fuels Campaign in Ohio, said there's more to the story.
With landfills nearing capacity, Johncox contends the plastics industry is pushing a bill that would restrict Ohioans' options in addressing unsustainable waste.
"And at the same time, the petrochemical industry is moving into Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia and building three huge production facilities, where they want to manufacture up to 7 million metric tons of plastic a year, right in our own backyard," Johncox said. "That's going to exacerbate the problems that we are already having."
A House committee will hold a fourth hearing on HB 625 on Tuesday. Opponents have said they're worried lawmakers will pass the legislation during the lame duck session.
Environmental scientist Dr. Randi Pokladnik of Southeast Ohio added beyond landfill concerns, the toxic chemicals used to make plastic bags and other containers pose a harm to human health.
"We live in a throwaway society, and unfortunately, we have picked plastic to be our packaging to use for everything," Pokladnik said. "A lot of those plasticizers will leach out of the plastic bottles. We're really exposing ourselves to so many chemicals by choosing to live a life of convenience."
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, along with some retail and manufacturing organizations, support the measures, claiming container laws should be left up to the state to avoid confusion. Pokladnik countered Ohioans should have the right to decide what's best for their communities.
"Why would you not want to become more environmental? Why would you want to encourage people to use plastic bags? Why would you not want citizens to make that choice for themselves?" she questioned. "This country has just become a mineral colony for the oil and gas corporations, and it's very hard for communities that want to fight back."
Meanwhile, some Ohio businesses and restaurants are moving away from using plastic straws. And this year, Ashtabula became the first city in the state to pass a "straw by request" ordinance.