Beaufort Today -

Group starts petition to ban plastic bags in Beaufort

A group called Lowcountry Citizens Ready for Change wants to eliminate plastic bags in Beaufort.

An online petition, “Ban the Plastic Bag in Our Beautiful Coast Town-Beaufort, SC,” at Change.org has received nearly 500 signatures, quickly catching the attention of Beaufort City Council members.

“It’s time for change!” the petition reads. “Sign this petition to tell Beaufort City Councilmen and Councilwoman we are ready to do better. Ban the Bag to help protect our water ways and nature.”

Two towns less than two hours from Beaufort have already outlawed the use of plastic bags. Ordinances in Folly Beach and Isle of Palms restrict the use of the bags that are said to harm waterways.

Beaufort City Councilman Stephen Murray requested feedback from his constituents through Facebook, while acknowledging a recent bill that would have prohibited municipalities from adopting plastic bag bans.

House bill 3529 failed in a 51-51 vote March 7 and cannot be reconsidered until 2018.

“I haven’t made up my mind on whether Beaufort should regulate bags, but I believe this is a local issue that should be left to local governments to decide,” Murray wrote in a Facebook post last week.

Beaufort County state Reps. Bill Herbkersman, R-Bluffton, and Shannon Erickson, R-Beaufort, voted against the bill.

“I’m encouraged by the General Assembly postponing the discussion on H. 3529 until January 2018, and appreciate local Rep. Shannon Erickson working to protect home rule by advocating for the delay,” Murray said.

“The city hasn’t formally discussed the bag issue, and I’m not sure if we will take it up given our full agenda.”

Coastal Conservation League air, water and public health director Katie Zimmerman said, “The vote reaffirms the commitment of the South Carolina House of Representatives to the principles of home rule and local solutions to local problems.

“We thank the hundreds of Conservation League members who contacted their representatives to oppose this bill, and the many representatives who stood up for coastal communities and the fishing and tourism businesses that support them.”

Mayor Billy Keyserling said while the local petition is not on council’s meeting agenda, he wants to hear from the community.

“My initial thought is that if we are going to impose a ban it would be through a county ordinance so that the municipalities and the county are in sync,” Keyserling said.

County Council chairman Paul Sommerville said a county ordinance wouldn’t apply to municipalities.

“The state Legislature can mandate but the county cannot. Any county ordinance would only apply in the unincorporated county,” he said.

The group advocating for the ban suggests options including a complete ban, a tax that would charge shoppers a fee to purchase plastic bags or introducing biodegradable bags that can decompose in three to six months.

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