A state bill forbidding local governments from banning single-use plastic bags is one step closer to becoming law, following a vote from the Ohio House of Representatives. The House voted 57 to 35 to pass the bill, which also would block local bans on single-use cups, straws and other items.
The move comes after several local governments in Ohio, including Cuyahoga County and Orange village, have imposed local bans in an effort to reduce harm to the environment. Backers of the bill say it promotes a uniform business climate in Ohio and protects consumer choice. Ohio retailers, including grocery stores, are among the bill’s most prominent backers. Opponents argue it blocks local communities from seeking to reduce plastic litter in Lake Erie and erodes local government control.
Rep. Don Jones, a Harrison County Republican who sponsored the legislation, in his speech on the House floor, referenced Cleveland’s recent moves to seek to opt out of Cuyahoga County’s plastic-bag ban. He said the bill “restricts consumer choice and imposes a burden on hard-working Ohioans,” and suggested other items, like plastic straws or cups, could be next. “We have to be aware that this could be just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
Rep. Kent Smith, a Euclid Democrat, responded to that metaphor: “Let me tell you what that iceberg is. That iceberg is a 22 million-pound plastic iceberg that floats through the Great Lakes ecosystem each year.” The number refers to a 2016 study from the Rochester Institute of Technology measuring plastic pollution.