Proposed bill could ban single-use plastic bags in Tennessee

Tennessee News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Many grocery stores across the country have made changes to make shopping a little more convenient– offering self-checkouts with a hefty amount of plastic bags.

But that could soon change in Tennessee after recent studies revealed micro-plastic pollution in the Tennessee River puts it at the top of the list of most polluted rivers in the world.

Senator Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville, has proposed a new bill to implement a single-use plastic bag ban, which would make Tennessee the ninth state to do so.

“It just seemed a shame that the river that carries our state’s name and is also one of the most bio-diverse rivers in the world was also the worst polluted,” he told News 2.

In addition, he said, “We had one of the farming groups say it is a serious problem out in West Tennessee where the bags blow over into the fields where the cotton is.”

In 2019, a proposed bill would have let local governments decide their own individual bans, but legislators chose, instead, to enact a bill prohibiting that kind of regulation, Briggs said, because it would make things too complicated.

His plan was for this state-wide bill, he said Kroger and Publix helped him write, allowing stores to use alternatives such as a re-usable thick plastic bags or paper.

“I use reusable bags that are not plastic,” said Nashville shopper Wendi Lambert, “You can buy them on Amazon and they’re great, you take them in, and I think you get a couple of cents off your bill if you use reusable bags.”

Not everyone is behind the ban, “I say don’t do it, we need these bags, we need these bags desperately,” said shopper Pam Thomas, “I know we can go out and we can bring our own bags in but everyone doesn’t always remember to do that and it’s so convenient to have the plastic bag just right there at your hands.”

Others say it shouldn’t be a thought, “I don’t think inconvenience should be something we’re thinking about when we’re thinking about the environment,” said Kari Bellinger.

“Rather than being the state that says, ‘We don’t care how things look,’ we want to be the state that says, ‘the natural blessing we have with our lakes rivers and mountains… we’re going to be good stewards and we’re going to take care of them,” Briggs said.

The Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association told News 2 in a statement:

“Our association’s retail grocer members hold diverse views on the proposed legislation.  Some see it is a positive progressive move and support it.  Some – like Kroger – are already moving toward phasing out plastic bags.  And some do not want to disappoint their customers, who are accustomed to being given bags in which to carry their groceries home.  Because of these divergent views within our membership, the Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association takes a neutral position on the bill.”

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