Single-use Plastic Bags, Polystyrene/Plastic Foam Products & Plastic Straws Ban

In 2016, the City of Isle of Palms became the first municipality in the state to ban the distribution of single-use plastic bags at point of sale. City Council, along with many other municipalities of the greater Charleston area, evaluated expanding this prohibition to include other plastic and Styrofoam products that pose a threat to our environment.

In March 2019, City Council approved final reading of an ordinance encouraging the use of reusable, recyclable and compostable products and prohibiting the distribution of polystyrene/plastic foam products, plastic straws and stirrers, among other things, at the point of sale. The regulations will go into effect on January 1, 2020.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the purpose of this Ordinance?

The new law is aimed at improving our environment by encouraging the use of reusable, recyclable and compostable products and prohibiting the distribution of polystyrene/plastic foam products, plastic straws and stirrers at the point of sale. Plastic and foam products filter into our waterways and the ocean, where they are harmful to marine life. They break down into smaller pieces of plastic that enter the food chain of animals and eventually to our plates.

What products are restricted by the Ordinance?

  • Single use plastic bags
  • Polystyrene/plastic foam products (also called Styrofoam)
    • Coolers
    • Ice chests
    • Cups
    • Bowls
    • Plates
    • Clamshells
    • Shipping boxes
    • Containers
  • Any other product containing polystyrene/plastic foam that is not completely encapsulated by a more durable material
  • Plastic straws and stirrers
  • Disposable food service ware (items designed for one-time use) associated with prepared foods must be of recyclable or compostable materials accepted by the Charleston County recycling program. These items include all containers, clamshells, bowls, plates, trays, cartons, cups, straws, stirrers, and other items designed for one-time use associated with prepared foods.

What exemptions are allowed?

  • Polystyrene/plastic foam products that are encapsulated by a more durable material. For example: surfboards, boats, life preserves, and craft supplies.
  • Meat trays, egg cartons, cutlery, plastic drink lids and to-go containers
  • Packaging predominantly made of paper, including wax paper products, paper products that have a clear plastic window
  • Paper products, such as paper cups or soup bowls, that are lined in plastic, which are used to package ready-to-eat foods.
  • Plastic straws needed by customers due to a medical or physical condition.

What businesses are affected by the Ordinance?

All business establishments are subject to the new Ordinance, including grocery stores, hardware stores, liquor stores, convenience stores, farmers markets, restaurants, gift shops, and other retail stores or vendors.

When does these regulations go into effect?

The ordinance will go into effect on January 1, 2020.

How should businesses get ready for the new regulations going into effect on January 1, 2020?

Business are encouraged to adjust their processes accordingly to accommodate prohibitions and exemptions as specified in the Ordinance and summarized in this FAQ.

Who will enforce the Ordinance?

The Isle of Palms Police Department will be responsible for enforcing these regulations.

What are the penalties for not complying with these new requirements?

Any business establishment that violates the provisions of the Ordinance will first receive a written warning notice. If the violation continues, the first penalty would be an up to $100 citation, $200 for a second violation within 12 months and $500 for each additional violation within a 12-month period.

Are retailers allowed to use up existing stocks of these products after January 1, 2020?

Retailers will have 9 months from when the ordinance was approved to plan for the transition. The City will focus its initial efforts on educating retailers and customers on the new requirements. We'll encourage businesses to use up leftover stock as quickly as possible to ensure they are compliant by January

What is the City's plan for informing customers of the Ordinance?

The City of Isle of Palms will continue to inform through the City's website, social media, news media and other means to reach retailers and customers.