COLUMBUS, Ohio - The plastic bag ban debate is once again heating up in Ohio.
A state Senate committee held its first hearing Wednesday on SB 222, which would preempt local governments from banning or taxing single-use plastic bags.
Cuyahoga County passed such a ban that goes into effect Jan. 1, and a few other Ohio communities have similar ordinances on the books.
State Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, sponsored the bill and contends it will provide clarity and consistency for commerce in the state.
"Consumers and businesses deserve rules and regulations that are uniform and easy to understand," he states.
Sarah Damron is a chapter manager with the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group that advocates for clean water and healthy beaches. She counters that Ohio should be taking action at the state level to reduce plastic pollution, instead of taking away power from local communities.
"Governments at every level from local to state to even entire countries have taken policy action to address the plastic plague caused by these kinds of items," she points out. "In Ohio, for some reason, we're going backwards."
SB 222 is companion legislation to HB 242, which had a fourth committee hearing in June.
Supporters say the fees or fines imposed for violating plastic container bans are bad for business.
But Elissa Yoder Mann, a conservation manager with the Sierra Club's Ohio Chapter, argues there's a lot more at stake, noting the state currently has just 39.9 years of landfill waste capacity.
"Plastic pollution is constantly getting into our rivers," she points out. "It's clogging up our storm sewers. Once it gets into the river, it breaks down into little pieces, and those pieces are consumed by fish and eventually get into the food chain."
Mann adds it's a matter of protecting both the environment and local democracy.
Since a similar bill died in Ohio last year, Mann questions who is behind this effort.
"Is it the plastic industry?" she raises. "Is it the fracking industry?
"Who is the one that is really determined to push this through, because it has flopped and the people of Ohio have indicated that they want to reduce plastic pollution by passing these local ordinances?"
While eight states have banned single-use plastic bags, Indiana, Michigan and six other states have laws preempting local plastics regulations.