Much of the conversation around banning or taxing plastic bags in the area has been about improving our environment. I don’t think you will find one person who will argue that we shouldn’t do all we can to keep our communities pristine. However, I’d like to set the record straight on how a plastic bag ban would affect the environment.
Plastic bags make up just 0.5 percent of waste in the U.S. and less than 2 percent of South Carolina’s coastal litter, according to the Ocean Conservancy. A ban or tax might seem like an easy solution, but it wouldn’t truly reduce waste or litter from plastic bags.
Bans in places like Austin, Texas, and Thurston County, Wash., have actually led to an increase in plastic consumption because consumers are not sufficiently reusing thicker, more resource-intensive “reusable” bags. According to the UK Environment Agency, canvas grocery bags must be reused 131 times “to ensure that they have lower global warming potential” than a single plastic bag used once.
We can do many things to protect the environment, but banning plastic bags is not one of them. Fifteen plastic bag recycling programs are located within 25 miles of Hilton Head Island at stores like Publix, Harris Teeter, Wal-Mart and Lowe’s. As a community, we need to work together to reuse and recycle, rather than revoking consumer choice and banning 100-percent recyclable plastic bags.
Joseph S. Iaco