In The Bag

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BEAUFORT COUNTY BAN ON PLASTIC BAGS STARTS NOV. 1

The ban on single-use plastic bags throughout Beaufort County doesn’t take effect until Nov. 1, but government officials and local businesses are have already started preparing for the transition.

County and town officials from all four municipalities — Beaufort, Bluffton, Hilton Head Island and Port Royal — are working together to ensure everyone is ready for the new eco-friendly law, which aims to improve and protect the environment, especially the Lowcountry’s waterways and marine life.

Business owners and organizations affected by the ordinance have been encouraged to ask questions, and they were able to attend a public meeting in September — with another planned for this month — to learn more about how to prepare.

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The Town of Hilton Head Island has two code enforcement officers who are visiting local businesses to answer questions and ensure everyone is ready for the transition, communications director Carolyn Grant said.

Grant also said the phones at Town Hall have been ringing off the hook with questions about the ban, including a recent call from a company in Ohio that operates several convenience stores in the area and wanted to make sure its stores were in compliance.

The town of Bluffton also has been receiving calls about specific types of bags, like the plastic bags distributed by dental offices to patients containing toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss.

“I love the fact that they’re asking the questions, even if we might not have an answer right now,” said public information officer Debbie Szpanka said. “There are a lot of industries that maybe aren’t the target of the ordinance but are using what might be considered a single-use plastic bag. … I think people are being thoughtful about it. I’m not saying it’s going to be a seamless transition, but I think people are preparing and adjusting. While there might be a couple of hiccups, I don’t think there are going to be many.”

The new ban will affect retailers, restaurants and other businesses. Area officials are encouraging stores to instead offer reusable carryout bags or recyclable paper bags to customers. However, the ordinance still allows some plastic bags, including:

  • Laundry or dry-cleaning bags.
  • Meat, produce and bakery bags.
  • Newspaper and door-hanger bags.
  • Pet waste, yard waste and garbage bags.
  • Bags provided by pharmacists or veterinarians to contain prescription drugs or other medical necessities, as required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  • Bags for items sold in bulk such as bulk food and bulk hardware items.
  • Bags or plastic wraps for flowers, potted plants or items where dampness may be an issue.
  • Bags of any type that a customer brings to the store for his or her own use.
  • Bags comprised of recyclable plastic, with a minimum thickness of 2.25 mils.

The new ban also prohibits organizations that host events on municipality-owned property from distributing plastic bags at their events. Businesses or organizations that ignore the ban will receive a notice of violation or a citation.