‘We can be an example’: This Grand Strand town first to ban plastic bags

Operators crush trash at the Horry County Solid Waste Authority landfill outside of Conway.
Operators crush trash at the Horry County Solid Waste Authority landfill outside of Conway. The Sun News

Plastic bags are officially banned in the Town of Surfside Beach, after council members voted on the second reading Tuesday night during a town council meeting.

The ordinance, which was proposed shortly before the new year, calls for all single-use plastic bags to be banned within city limits, meaning that businesses will no longer be able to provide the bags. Businesses will now be required to provide reusable bags or recyclable paper bags to customers.

But the motion came with some back-and-forth between council members.

“This thing is going to be highly contentious, especially when it comes to enforcement,” councilman Mark Johnson said. “We have small business owners sitting in this room. Are you dictating to them that they can’t use plastic bags? It’s not about using, it’s about educating the residents and the people being responsible for their disposal.”

Johnson continued, stating that council will not be able to control plastic bags outside of town limits.

However, councilwoman Julie Samples, who originally suggested the motion, stated, “We cannot legislate what happens outside of our town. Enforcing a plastic bag ban is not going to be different than having to enforce smoking and a hundred other things. Why in the world are we trying to make it so complicated?”

To the applause of both town residents and other city residents, town council voted to instate the ban, which will go into effect June1.

According to a discussion paper included with the ordinance, 70 percent of business owners in town limts were in favor of the ban.

“We can be an example for other towns,” councilman Randle Stevens said. “If we start here, maybe we can get other people and other people and other people. Let’s take a step forward and go forward from now on.”

Megan Tomasic: 843-626-0343, @MeganTomasic

Here’s what is exempt from the ordinance:

  • Laundry dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags, door-hanger bags and garbage bags
  • Bags used by a customer to contain bulk items
  • Bags used to wrap frozen foods
  • Bags brought to businesses by customers for their own use