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Charleston approves ban on single-use plastics

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The city of Charleston passed second and third reading of its single-use plastics ban Tuesday night, joining Folly Beach, the Isle of Palms and Mount Pleasant in outlawing the products.

Enforcement of the ban will begin Jan. 1, 2020.

The ordinance is similar to the first reading the City Council passed two weeks ago, but in response to concerns from council members, city staff clarified the process for requesting an exemption and added language that encourages businesses to provide signage about the benefits of recycling and reusable bags.

Businesses that use single-use plastics after enforcement begins will receive a written warning from the city. If the practice continues, the business will be fined up to $200 for a first violation, up to $350 for a second violation and up to $500 for subsequent violations within a 12-month period.

Katie McKain, senior planner for the planning and sustainability department, said staff also narrowed the definition of a reusable bag to prevent people taking advantage of thinner bags and changed the effective date of the ban to a firm date instead of a year after the ratification of the ordinance.  

“One of the reasons we did this is to tighten up the effective date language so if there was something that happened at the state level, the ordinance actually goes into effect as soon as you would pass second and third reading instead of a year from now,” McKain said to Charleston City Council. “Now it’s just the enforcement would go into effect a year from now.”

The S.C. Legislature has been considering a ban on plastics bans, and though the General Assembly’s recent effort died at the end of the legislative session, a similar bill could be reintroduced.

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