They mean it this time: Starting today, most Charleston County residents must put their yard debris in paper bags.
A ban on yard waste bagged in plastic is in effect at the Bees Ferry Landfill. County leaders first said the ban would start last June 1, but they deferred it twice. They then added a 90-day transition period because of the confusion the deferrals might have caused local residents. That ran out Tuesday.
County officials, as well as those from the county's cities and towns, said most residents support the ban, which was put in place to help the county reach its goal of recycling 40 percent of its garbage.
They estimate that already, about
70 percent of residents are using the paper bags, and they hope the percentage jumps today.
"It's going to be a gentlemanly transition," said Harvey Gibson, the county's compost superintendent.
The county makes compost from the yard waste that comes to the landfill, but the compost had bits of plastic in it from the bags. Now that it can make clean compost, the county can sell it commercially and use the income to offset some of the cost of operating the program, Gibson said.
He already is negotiating with companies interested in purchasing the compost.
Some residents continue to oppose the ban, largely because they think plastic bags are stronger, cheaper and hold more.
Robert Leap, who lives on James Island, said he doesn't agree with the ban. "I'm going to push it to the limit because I think it's a stupid thing to do," he said.
"Why is Charleston County going into the business of selling mulch anyway?" he said. "I know paper is greener and all that. But if they didn't sell mulch, they wouldn't need to ban plastic."
North Charleston has opted out of the program entirely, and its residents can continue to bag their leaves and yard debris in plastic, said city spokesman Ryan Johnson. North Charleston has hired two private companies to dispose of yard waste bagged in plastic, costing the city about $55,000 for the remaining five months of the its fiscal year, he said.
In Charleston County, the county runs the landfill, but the cities and towns collect trash.
Charleston and Mount Pleasant have changed their ordinances and now require residents to use paper bags for yard waste.
Mike Metzler, deputy director of operations for the Charleston Public Service Department, said the city workers will give residents "a gentle reminder" the first time they set out a plastic bag, and the city will pick up the bag.
But they won't pick up plastic bags if they are set out a second time, and habitual offenders could receive a warning and a summons from the city's livability division, he said.
Jody Peele, director of public services for Mount Pleasant, said most residents already are complying with the ban. The town also will give first-time offenders a gentle reminder, after which it won't pick up yard waste bagged in plastic.
Gibson said landfill employees will help haulers who bring in loads that contain some plastic to debag it.
"We'll be helpful and respectful," he said. Turning away a truck with a load that contains plastic is "the last alternative."