IOP could be first town in S.C. to ban plastic bags

The Isle of Palms says it’ll take up an ordinance to ban the sale of plastic bags in coming months. The bags can harm marine life, according to residents who made a presentation to City Council Tuesday night.

Residents and visitors to Isle of Palms will be hauling their purchases in paper sacks or reusable bags in 2016, if all goes according to plan.

Council unanimously agreed Tuesday to consider banning single-use plastic bags at its May meeting at the request of residents Rini Kosmos, Kathy Kent, Christy Humphries and Jackie Kilroe.

The ordinance will require two readings and will have a six-month transition period to allow businesses to exhaust their current inventory, so council members discussed having it go into effect in January.

The bags not only cause pollution, but they are also a danger to marine life, Kilroe said.

A recent study by The Citadel estimated more than 7 tons of plastics sit by the water or under tidal water around Charleston Harbor at any given time.

The study, “Plastic to Microplastic: Decomposition of Three Common Plastic Polymers in a Salt Marsh Habitat,” found the load is breaking down within four to eight weeks to microplastics that are absorbed by aquatic food like shrimp, and can kill them.

The island would be the first municipality in the state to impose such a ban, said Kosmos, one of the four women who asked Council to consider the ban.

She said several businesses have already expressed their support, but Harris Teeter, the Island’s grocery store, is not yet on board.

“I am unable to pass along an official statement from Harris Teeter because an official statement must come from Harris Teeter directly,” said Kosmos. The chain has given the women 3,000 reusable bags to pass out as part of their effort.

About 200 municipalities across the country have banned the bags, including the Outer Banks in North Carolina, which outlawed them five years ago.

At the time, the American Chemistry Council, which lobbies on behalf of the plastic industry, says paper bags cost significantly more to produce than plastic bags.

The women provided the Council with model ordinances from other municipalities.

Councilman Jimmy Carroll brought a box of reusable bags made out of recycled products that hold up to 30 pounds and are washable.

“I don’t think you’re going to find anyone against (banning the bags),” he said.

City officials, including the attorney, will look over the proposal before the next meeting, Mayor Dick Cronin said.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or @brindge on Twitter.