Monday, December 11, 2023 Blog

Update: Thick plastic bags are finally out!

by Emmi Palenbaum

You know those thick plastic bags big box stores have been offering over the last several years? The ones marketed as “reusable”, but that still end up as litter? This week, Charleston City Council passed an amendment to close a loophole in the existing plastic ordinance that allows for these thicker plastic bags, requiring big businesses to provide customers with paper bags instead.

This is great news for reducing plastic litter in our marshes! 

The initial plastic ordinance, passed in 2019, requires businesses to use alternatives to single use plastic bags and Styrofoam take out containers, but some businesses got around this by offering these “reusable” thicker plastic bags. This new ordinance stops that from continuing. Most locally owned businesses are already providing paper bags for customers, so this ordinance will also support local businesses by forcing big box stores like Walmart to follow suit.

And, of course, closing this loophole will have a big impact on plastic litter. Scientists at the College of Charleston and The Citadel found that litter sweeps saw a 50% decrease of thin single use-plastic bags after the passing of the original ordinance. This data was critical in helping the City of Charleston understand how the bags could potentially impact our waterways and we only hope to see the litter to continue to decrease with the passing of this new amendment. During the initial reading of the amendment at City Council two weeks ago, Brooke Blosser presented the data from the scientific study and urged the council members to act in the best interest of our coastal communities, local businesses, and estuarine ecosystem. We are thankful they agreed that something needed to be done.

If you are interested in learning more about plastic bag pollution, check out this article from the Post and CourierThank you for your continued support on this issue and please reach out to Brooke Blosser, Land, Water, and Wildlife project manager, with any questions. 

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