The banning of some plastic bags outright statewide is still on the table in the state legislature, but the members of the Glynn County delegation aren’t sold on the proposition.
When state Sen. Donzella James prefiled Senate Bill 280 in December, state Sen. William Ligon said he didn’t expect the bill to receive consideration.
“The legislature should not regulate the use of such things like plastic bags, straws or the size of soft drinks,” Ligon told The News earlier this year. “We should not be trying to imitate states like California or New York.”
Rep. Jeff Jones, R-St. Simons Island, laid the blame for the problem on personal responsibility instead of blaming the bags.
“The simple answer to any trash problem, including plastic bags, is personal responsibility,” Jones said. “We already have laws on the books against littering — just enforce.”
Rep. Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, said when the legislation was prefiled in December he wasn’t sure about the measure but believes plastic bags are bad for the environment.
Backers of banning some plastic bags statewide testified Wednesday before the state Senate Economic Development and Tourism Committee. In testifying before the Senate committee, James said there are a number of problems with plastic bags people receive at grocery stores.
“Plastic bags are not biodegradable, and they have been buried in the landfill, but also they fly around, they contaminate the water, streams that we have in the state of Georgia, they kill the wildlife in Georgia, and they pollute our neighborhoods,” James said.
Kathy Kuzava, president of the Georgia Food Industry Association, said she is willing to work on amending the bill.
“Right now, we do have the option of bags at the checkout,” Kuzava said. “We’ve got paper, we’ve got reusable, and retailers are selling more and more reusables as the days go by, so we’re watching that and we’re very encouraged.
“A lot of our members have made strong statements that they’re going to be reducing plastics — both our retailers as well as our suppliers.”
Alex Muir, speaking for the coastal advocacy organization One Hundred Miles, said the bill is a necessary step in reducing plastic pollution.
“Internationally recognized research coming straight from UGA’s expert in plastic pollution, Dr. Jenna Jambeck, shows that single-use plastics are now the greatest contributor to pollution on our beaches and in our oceans,” Muir said. “This has grave consequences for wildlife, like Georgia’s threatened sea turtles, which peer-reviewed literature indicate suffer increased mortality at a threshold of just 14 pieces of plastic consumed. Similar impacts can be seen in marine mammals, as well as shorebirds that rely on Georgia’s coast.”
Lea King-Badyna, executive director of Keep Golden Isles Beautiful, said on the eve of the annual Marsh Madness cleanup efforts that plastic bag regulations should be made on the local level.
“The discussion is always helpful when these sorts of things are talked about,” King-Badyna said. “To have a discussion about single-use plastics and getting folks to look at their own lives and their own consumer habits, how they incorporate single-use plastics into their daily lives and how they could possibly substitute something else beside a single-use plastic.
“We feel like the conversation is very valuable. I really don’t have a read on whether or not (a ban) would be successful in the state of Georgia. But I do feel like communities should be able to make those decisions for themselves, and let it be decided at a community level. And we’re always in favor of more sustainable products so we encourage folks to use reusable grocery bags, for instance, and to try to lessen their dependence in single-use plastics.”