Environmentalists agree that eliminating single-use plastic bags will be good for planet Earth. Plastic bags are inexpensive. And even though they are considered single-use, the bags often see new life as trash can liners, animal waste retrievers or containers for items stored at home.
But too many of the bags ultimately end up in landfills, oceans, lakes and streams, causing damage to the landscape and injuring, sometimes killing, wildlife.
Orange Village Council members led the way last year when they approved a ban on single-use plastic bags by businesses within the municipal boundaries. Bexley City Council in central Ohio followed with similar legislation, as did the Cuyahoga County Council.
But a group of state lawmakers are not on board with this move. House Bill 242, prohibiting local communities from passing plastic bag bans, was approved and sent to the Ohio Senate for consideration.
Clearly the Republican state lawmakers who introduced this bill have not come to terms with the overwhelming evidence that plastic pollution is a worldwide crisis. That world includes Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga River and waterways throughout Ohio.
HB 242 and a companion Senate Bill 222 would prevent local laws involving usage fees for plastic and bans on plastic containers. The bills are backed by the Ohio Grocers Association, Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. Proponents say the bills are needed to stop a patchwork of local legislation that would make it difficult and expensive for businesses to operate in Ohio. But opponents of the state bills say not all laws work for all areas of Ohio, and local governments have the right to do what is best for their individual communities.
This divide can be seen nationwide. Eight states have bans on single-use plastic bags while 14 states have pre-emptive laws prohibiting local bans.
Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said last week that it would be a mistake for state lawmakers to override decisions of local community leaders in villages, cities and counties across Ohio. He makes a good point.
We strongly support the three-Rs – reuse, recycle, reduce. Local governments are key to putting these concepts into play.
But as political battles continue, it ultimately is corporate America that has the real power to effect change.
Last week, Giant Eagle, a national food chain, announced that it is taking steps to eliminate all single-use plastic in its 470 stores by 2025. But customers here will see immediate changes as of Jan. 1 when Giant Eagle stores in Cuyahoga County, central Ohio and greater Pittsburgh will stop offering single-use plastic sacks to bag groceries. Reusable bags will be sold for 99-cents each and paper bags will cost shoppers 10-cents each.
Giant Eagle also plans to employ other methods in the near future to get rid of plastic, including offering single-serve store brand boxed water to discourage the use of plastic water bottles.
Other national chains are joining in. Big Y Foods in Massachusetts plans to phase out plastic bags by 2020, and Cincinnati-based Kroger is on track to do the same by 2025. Aldi food stores announced that all the packaging used in its operation will be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.
That’s a great start. Let’s hope state lawmakers and other companies can catch up to these efforts.