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SC Plastic Straw Ban: What You Need to Know

Brookgreen Gardens in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA

Since 2018 there have been plastic straw bans, rules, and regulations across South Carolina. If you are in the food industry, you may have some questions about what these bans mean for you as a business owner and server. 

You may also be looking for a few alternatives to plastic straws that you can use in your business or for personal use. Continue reading for the answers to many questions like these!

What Are the Rules in South Carolina Regarding Plastic Straws?

South Carolina as a state does not have statewide bans on plastic straws. However, certain cities in the state did ban single-use plastic straws and foam and other single-use plastic items, specifically regarding the food industry. 

As of January 1, 2020, Charleston County Council, the city of Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and the town of James Island have banned all single-use plastic bags and single-use carryout food items like:

  • Utensils 
  • Straws
  • Containers 

This ban comes as Charleston tries to preserve its coastal nature. Information on the city’s official site states that they implemented these bans to protect marine life, maintain waterways, and improve the city’s streets for future generations. 

They also cite a concern for human health. Since these plastic items are not biodegradable, the waste they create sits on the earth for hundreds of years, contaminating life sources like waterways.

What Are Considered “Single-Use” Items?

Single-use plastic is easy enough to understand. The forks, spoons, and knives you receive with your takeout meals count. The bowls and plates they come in also count as single-use items. 

Single-use plastic bags, such as plastic carryout bags, also apply here. Foam products, sometimes called styrofoam, are also included in this list of banned items. 

Essentially, anything that is made from plastic and is not biodegradable can not be sold by any retailer under this ban in Charleston. 

How Can I Comply With These Bans With My Business? 

The city’s official website offers tips on how to do this cost-effectively. They also give business workshops on how to transition easily. Free resident workshops are provided by the city as well. These exist to help you understand the laws and their purposes better. 

Reach out to your local government officials or city council for guidance in transitioning your business practices. Doing this is an excellent way to be sure you are compliant with the new rules. 

If you would like a simple explanation to your customers, there are free printable flyers online that spell out the ins and outs of the new law. 

What Are Some Single-Use Plastic Alternatives to Use for My Business?

There are plenty of single-use plastic straw alternatives in South Carolina available for purchase these days. Continue reading for a more in-depth look at a few alternatives to single-use plastic. 

Straw Alternatives

Though single-use plastic straws are a big part of the ban on plastic, plenty of straw alternatives are presently available, and others are in development. 

Some popular options include: 

  • Paper straws
  • Bamboo straws 
  • Metal straws 

Some companies make biodegradable plastic and even hay straws. Finding alternatives to plastic straws is not that difficult since many options are on the market. 

Some people do not like paper straws, but straws are not imperative to a meal, and the consumer can opt-out of a straw entirely if they wish. For those with disabilities that need a straw, stainless steel straws are excellent choices. 

Takeaway Meal Containers 

Plastic takeaway containers are also prohibited under the law in South Carolina. It may be challenging to find replacements for these that are also cost-effective. Under the ban, all single-use plastics that are not reusable can not be used, so you must find a new method to transport your food!

Some good alternatives to plastic containers are:

  • Biodegradable plastic 
  • Paper containers
  • Cardboard

Aluminum and glass are also good options, but they are not feasible for businesses offering takeout. 

Plastic cups are prohibited by this ban, as well as non-recyclable cups. Paper cups are a widely available and valuable alternative to these. Other recyclable or compostable cups are available as well. 

As a Consumer, What Can I Do to Help the Local Businesses?

As a consumer, you can choose to receive no straws. You can also refuse plastic cutlery if you take your to-go meal home. It is a good idea to invest in a couple of reusable bags so that you can take your takeout food with you in the reusable bags. 

If the restaurant allows it, you can bring your containers for to-go meals. Be sure they are made of a reusable source like aluminum or glass. You can use these containers for both foods and drinks at restaurants that allow it. 
Each small step you take complying with these rules is a big help for these businesses. Each step is a step in the right direction for reducing pollution in Charleston.


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