Could North Myrtle Beach be the next coastal city to ban plastic bags?

North Myrtle Beach could be the next coastal city to ban plastic bags after city council discussed the idea during a budget retreat earlier this week.

"I would like for us to look at it a little bit closer, not make a decision today about the plastic bags, but let's talk with county, let's see if they're interested," said North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley. "I'd like for it to be a county-wide thing, to ban them."

City council became aware of the idea after members of Keep North Myrtle Beach Beautiful called for a ban during the last council meeting.

Keep North Myrtle Beach Beautiful, a community-based program, brought the idea up shortly after the Town of Surfside Beach chose to ban plastic bags, following in the footsteps of the Isle of Palms, Folly Beach and Beaufort County.

But a bill in the S.C. House would limit how the city can ban plastic bags. In early February, the House gave a second approval to a bill that would give the General Assembly authority to regulate single-use containers carrying food or merchandise, The State reported.

If the bill passes a third reading by the House, any bans placed before Jan. 31 would not be affected.

Hatley did take the bill into consideration during talks of the ban, saying they could still ban plastic bags in certain areas, such as along the beach if it were to pass.

However, the bill wasn't the only concern for some council members. Councilwoman Nikki Fontana suggested that police officers would not be concerned with enforcing the ban when there could be more serious crimes occurring.

"From one city to the next, our tourists and visitors coming in aren't going to know that we had that in place if either the whole county or the whole state are doing it," Fontana said.

Hatley suggested following the City of Beaufort's example and not banning plastic bags until the entire county bans them.

"I don't think we're ready yet for that," said Councilman Bob Cavanaugh. "I like the idea of the way our public safety does things. There's a four-step process, and that is educate, learn, warn and then cite. I think what we've got to do is strengthen and support organizations to educate and learn from the businesses what's doable, and that type of work first before we get to legislation."

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