Hilton Head to adopt plastic bag ban under certain conditions

BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) - Hilton Head Island town leaders are moving forward with a new ban on single-use plastic bags. They say it's an effort to be better stewards of the environment.

The ordinance passed at Tuesday night's town council meeting did so with some conditions.

Town Manager Steve Riley explains the plastic bag ban only goes into effect if all the communities in Beaufort County adopt the same ordinance. That's by design so they don't drive businesses out and into other neighboring towns.

The county already passed the ordinance, but it only goes into effect if all the municipalities adopt it, too.

When it comes time to roll out the new ordinance, assuming all Beaufort County local governments get on board, Hilton Head's town manager says it's not going to be all about writing fines for businesses that don't comply.

"We need to put together a whole education package. We need to sit down with the chamber, with our marketing arm, with our major resorts and rental agencies and talk about ... let's not surprise them. Let's try to figure out how we positively get that word out and say, we're a bag-free place now. That puts a little more on you, be ready," Riley said.

Merchants like the Piggly Wiggly, just a short walk from Coligny Beach Park, are bracing for change. 
And the owner here says that's not all bad.

"The plastic bags are not that great to start off with as far as being efficient. The re-usables are much better," said David Martin, owner of the Piggly Wiggly.

Martin said he welcomes the change for the environmental impact it could have, but the hit on his bottom line could hurt. He estimates the cost to switch from plastic to paper could reach $30,000 a year at first.

"Our plastic bags are about a penny, the paper bags are about 12 or 14 cents. You'll have some people using re-usable, so maybe that expense won't be so hard," said Martin. "Once it starts rolling and people are happy about it, constituents are happy about it, the politicians are answering what the concerns are of the citizens, and whether we like it or not, it's coming."

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