Plastic bags on Hilton Head, here’s how to get in on the debate

HILTON HEAD, Sc. (WSAV) – It’s a debate that’s been circling Beaufort County for years now – plastic or reusable bags. All over the U.S., cities and even states are banning plastic bags, but in Hilton Head– one environmental organization is still pushing to get plastic bags out of stores and the waterways.

“It really is harmful to our wildlife plastic bags are often mistaken for jellyfish by sea turtles… once it’s swallowed it does serious damage to their digestive tract,” said Rikki Parker, the project manager with the Coastal Conservation League in Beaufort.

Parker says in America, we use and throw away 100 billion plastic bags every year… and they end up right in our water.

“They break down into micro plastics which can then be ingested by smaller creatures like shrimp and are shellfish which we love to eat here in the Lowcountry,” she said.

Turner and her team brought the topic up at the Hilton Head Planning Commission meeting last week.

“It was really a great community to start in because the community had already identified that as one of its goals,” Parker said.

And that’s why the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce has launched an online survey to see what the town thinks.

For some businesses – it’s cost verse environment.

“I can buy a thousand plastic bags for about 16 or 17 dollars, which means they’re about a penny a piece, versus a paper bag which is about a nickle a piece,” said Michael Clancy, Owner of Rocket Fizz at Shelter Cove.

But he’s still not opposed.

“I’d have no problem with them banning plastic bags,” Clancy said. “‘Cause you’ll see where these things end up – they’ll end up in the water and we’re directly across from the marsh.”

Parker says “Another option to a bag ban would be a bag fee and that would be kind of a small fee that you would charge a customer if they requested plastic bag.”

She says in Washington D.C, five cent fee for bags is actually working.

“Even Washington D.C., which has a small five cent fee, has seen a significant reduction in pollution that they’re seeing in there river cleanups- it’s been reduced by about 60%,” she said.

And in California, the ban isn’t just in one city, it’s statewide. “It’s really important for our wild life here, more so than an inland community, and that’s the same thing California was seeing that there’s so much coastline along California that they really wanted to protect that wild life so they implemented a statewide ban,” Parker said.

The Hilton Head Community Development Director said that although it is in the town’s comprehensive plan to look into plastic bags on the island,  it is not a priority for them right now.

To take part in the survey, click here.

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