Plastic Bags - Should single use plastic bags be banned or otherwise regulated?

29 Aug Plastic Bags - Should single use plastic bags be banned or otherwise regulated?

Several months ago,in response to the town’s of Folly Beach and the Isle of Palms passing bans on some single use plastic bags, members of the SC House or Representatives proposed banning local governments from regulating plastic bags. SC Municipalities believed this intrusive into local government rights and more importantly the rights of our citizens to maintain environmental sustainability.  All four of Beaufort County’s Mayors,  and I believe our Councils (though no votes taken),  were opposed to this legislative intrusion into local matters.

More recently, many residents of Beaufort County have asked the municipalities and the County County to follow Folly Beach and the Island of Palms in banning  the single use bags or to take some other action to prevent them from increasingly challenging wildlife, particularly water fowl and sea turtles, and cluttering our beaches, parks and highways with unsightly trash.

Last week the County Council Natural Resources Committee voted to propose for the first of three readings a measure modeled after Folly Beach and the Isle of Palms. You will find a link to the proposed ordinance below.

In the spirit of collaboration, and believing that the issue should be dealt with county wide and not town by town which would be even more difficult to enforce, on September 12th the Beaufort City Council will have a work session to hear a presentation and to discuss the ordinance also being considered by the other municipalities.

Some have suggested other ways of managing one time use plastic bags including charging for them when paper would be free, reusing the bags or future shopping, exchanging used bags for new ones like we did with soda bottles when the merchants would purchase empties that could be reused. (Remember the days before plastic?)

I am hearing a lot to talk about out this issue and know that the County Council meeting where this was discussed had a huge overflow of citizens wanting to be heard.  There are strong feelings pro and con regulating.

While I am open to exploring alternatives and would like any suggestions, I think it is time we start the conversation and in one way or another remove the dangers created by single use plastic bags. Send suggestions and join us for the work session.

Below is the model ordinance which will be the center piece of conversation though not necessarily the same end product.




38-161   Purpose

38-162   Definitions

38-163   Regulations

38-164   Exemptions

38-165   Effective date and waivers

38-166   Penalties


  • 38-161 PURPOSE.

This chapter is adopted to improve the environment of the county by encouraging the use of reusable checkout bags and recyclable paper carryout bags and banning the use of single-use plastic bags for retail checkout of purchased goods. Business establishments are encouraged to make reusable bags available for sale and recyclable paper carryout bags available for distribution.

  • 38-162 DEFINITIONS.

The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning:

BUSINESS ESTABLISHMENT. Any commercial enterprise that provides carryout bags to its customers through its employees or independent contractors associated with the business. The term includes sole proprietorships, joint ventures, partnerships, corporations, or any other legal entity whether for profit or not for profit.

SINGLE-USE PLASTIC CARRYOUT BAG. A bag provided by a business establishment to a customer typically at the point of sale for the purpose of transporting purchases, which is made predominantly of plastic derived from either petroleum or a biologically-based source. “Single-use plastic carryout bag” includes compostable and biodegradable bags but does not include reusable carryout bags.

REUSABLE CARRYOUT BAG. A carryout bag that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse, and meets the following criteria:

  • Displays in a highly visible manner on the bag exterior, language describing the bag’s ability to be reused and recycled;
  • Has a handle; except that handles are not required for carryout bags constructed out of recyclable paper with a height of less than 14 inches and width of less than eight inches; and
  • Is constructed out of any of the following materials:
  • Cloth, other washable fabric, or other durable materials whether woven or non-woven; or
  • Recyclable plastic, with a minimum thickness of 2.25 mils;

CUSTOMER. A person who purchases merchandise from a business establishment.

  • 38-163 REGULATIONS.
  • No person may provide single-use plastic carryout bags at any county facility, county-sponsored event, or any event held on county property.
  • No business establishment within the unincorporated county limits may provide single use plastic carryout bags to its customers.
  • Business establishments within the unincorporated county limits are strongly encouraged to provide prominently displayed signage advising customers of the benefit of reducing, reusing and recycling and promoting the use of reusable carryout bags and recyclable paper carryout bags by customers.
  • All business establishments shall provide or make available to a customer reusable carryout bags or recyclable paper bags.
  • 38-164 EXEMPTIONS.

This chapter shall not apply to:

  • Laundry dry cleaning bags, door-hanger bags, newspaper bags, or packages of multiple bags intended for use as garbage, pet waste, or yard waste;
  • Bags provided by pharmacists or veterinarians to contain prescription drugs or other medical necessities;
  • Bags used by a customer inside a business establishment to:
  • Contain bulk items, such as produce, nuts, grains, candy, or small hardware items;
  • Contain or wrap frozen foods, meat, or fish, whether or not prepackaged;
  • Contain or wrap flowers, potted plants or other items to prevent moisture damage to other purchases; or
  • Contain unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods; and
  • Bags of any type that the customer brings to the store for their own use for carrying away from the store goods that are not placed in a bag provided by the store.

 All of the requirements set forth in this chapter shall take effect January 1, 2018. In the event that compliance with the effective date of this chapter is not feasible for a business establishment because of either unavailability of alternative checkout bags or economic hardship, County Council may grant a waiver of not more than 12 months upon application of the business owner or owner’s representative.

  • 38-166 PENALTIES.
  • Any business establishment that violates or fails to comply with any of the provisions of this chapter after a written warning notice has been issued for that violation shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor. The penalty shall not exceed $100 for a first violation; $200 for a second violation within any 12-month period; and $500 for each additional violation within any 12-month period. Each day that a violation continues will constitute a separate offense.
  • In addition to the penalties set forth in this section, repeated violations of this chapter by a person who owns, manages, operates, is a business agent of, or otherwise controls a business establishment may result in the suspension or revocation of the business license issued to the premises on which the violations occurred. No business license shall be issued or renewed until all fines outstanding against the applicant for violations of this chapter are paid in full.
  • Violation of this chapter is hereby declared to be a public nuisance, which may be abated by the county by restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunction, or other means provided for by law, and the county may take action to recover the costs of the nuisance abatement.



Sec. 90-63

[amend section 90-63(16) to read]

 Glassware and single-use plastic carryout bags. Taking any glass bottle, drinking glass, glass container or single use plastic carryout bag on any public beach shall be unlawful.