By Kathryn Casey, Island Eye News Staff Reporter
Last week, the City of Isle of Palms was presented with a unique opportunity for a South Carolina municipality. Kathy Kent spoke for a group of concerned citizens to propose to City Council that the Isle of Palms become the first city in the state to ban single use plastic bags. Many other cities across the nation and the world have adopted similar ordinances, banning the use of one time use plastic bags, such as the kind used at the grocery store, retail checkouts and some to-go options at local restaurants.
According to Kent, cities along the Outer Banks and even the entire country of China have adopted laws prohibiting the use of plastic bags.
About 500 billion plastic bags are used yearly across the globe. Kent and other supporters of the Ban the Bag IOP Movement believe that cutting down on the use of plastic bags can help save the environment from further pollution.
“These bags, when littered into the ocean, look like jellyfish to sea turtles and they eat them,” Rini Kosmo, a member of the group, said in an email to Island Eye. “This is not a war against all plastic, as all of us use plenty of it in our lives every day. It does target the small translucent bags that stores often use because those bags, when littered into the water, often look like the jellyfish upon which many sea turtles, and fish, feed.”
To date, the Ban the Bag Movement has faced some opposition, with residents taking to social media to tell their councilmembers that they feel a ban is unfair. Kent believes that the opposition shown is actually in response to misunderstandings about the ordinance she has proposed the city consider. Some residents believe that they would be fined for using plastic bags under this ordinance, which is not so. This ordinance would only ban point-of-sale, one-time use plastic bags.
This means that stores like Harris Teeter and Subway would use paper bags instead of the plastic bags. Shoppers would still have access to the plastic bags in the grocery store that are used to hold fresh produce and meats. Island residents would also still be able to use the plastic doggy-waste bags that are provided on the Front Beach. “This is about cutting down on the total amount of bags distributed, not punishing those who have bags,” Kent says.
When City Council first questioned the Ban the Bag group at the council meeting on April 28, they asked whether the businesses would be on board with this. The response was that almost all of those approached had been receptive to the idea. Those who have expressed support include, Bushido, The Dinghy, Coda Del Pesce, Banana Cabana, Sea Biscuit, ThinkBank Inc., Long Island Cafe, Salon Latitude, Nature Adventures, Janis Agency, Isle of Palms Family Dentistry, Dickinson Architects and Island Ice.
“Island Ice Frozen Yogurt fully supports the discontinuation of plastic bag use on Isle of Palms,” the yoghurt shop said on social media last week. “Paper, cloth, and bagless are all viable options. Might be temporarily inconvenient to change over but so worth it for long term well being.”
Nature Adventures has joined in support saying on their Facebook page, “Nature Adventures Kayak, Canoe and Paddleboard Outfitters is in total support of banning the bags! We’ve seen first hand, several injured and dead turtles and birds from them. Please support this community effort.” Harris Teeter, the island’s only grocery store, has not yet made a formal response.
However they donated 3,000 reusable bags to the group and the Harris Teeter store in the Outer Banks has complied with a plastic bag ban there.
Council voted unanimously to have the city attorney draft an ordinance to be presented to council for discussion at its next meeting, May 26 at 6 p.m. The ordinance will require two readings before a final vote and if it passes, businesses will have a six-month transition period to go through any current inventory. This timeline could see plastic bags gone by January 2016.