Green planet, green jobs

January 14, 2011

By Sammy Fretwell

South Carolina lost $52 million last year in potential revenue because the state isn’t recycling enough paper, plastic, metal and glass, conservationists said Thursday in announcing their agenda for this year’s legislative session.

The recycling statistic, presented during a briefing for state senators, was used as part of a strategy to show lawmakers that protecting the environment will help South Carolina’s economy at a time when the state needs jobs.

Among other things, conservationists are pushing a bill that would raise garbage disposal fees to help fund recycling programs and a bill that would require bars to recycle beer bottles rather than throw them in the trash.

They also want a ban on phosphorous detergents — which has been done in 15 other states — and legislation requiring audits for wastewater plants that routinely spill sewage. And they advocate increased funding for the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, the Conservation Bank and the State Forestry Commission.

Conservationists say the state should not have to choose between a clean environment and a healthy economy. In fact, they say, a clean environment can create jobs. The jobs-versus-the-environment conflict has in the past short-circuited some of their efforts in the Legislature.

“The conservation community wants to be part of South Carolina’s recovery,’’ said Ann Timberlake, director of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina.

”We don’t want to ever be put again in position of legislators having to choose between protecting trees or putting fuel in school buses. That’s not really what our future is about.’’

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