NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — North Myrtle Beach’s upcoming plastic bag ban — already put off due to the pandemic — may be delayed another year.
Approved in 2019, the ban was initially set to go into effect Jan. 1 of this year. The city council voted last year to push it back to 2022 in order to give local businesses more time to transition from single-use plastic to eco-friendly bags.
The ban will be revisited this fall, according to Patrick Dowling, the public information officer for the city. Dowling said the ordinance’s implementation date was originally delayed because the city didn’t want to put any additional financial burdens on businesses that were already struggling during the pandemic.
“The City would want to make sure that an apparent upsurge in COVID-19 cases in South Carolina and nationwide, which could continue into the fall and winter months, does not have a negative impact on our local economy before moving forward with implementation of the plastic bag ordinance,” Dowling said in an email.
The city wants to review if businesses will be able to buy the necessary replacement materials, and that those products aren’t seeing rising prices due to shortages.
“Currently, many materials and products are difficult to obtain or can only be obtained at significant price increases,” he said.
The ordinance bans all single-use plastic bags with handles — except for those used for medications, meat, produce, newspapers, garbage and dry cleaning.
Bluffton, Hilton Head Island, Beaufort County, the Isle of Palms, Surfside Beach and Folly Beach already have similar ordinances.
Randy Davies, the community relations and advocacy director for Destination North Myrtle Beach, formerly known as the chamber of commerce, said the organization is monitoring the upcoming ban. He referred News13 to the city for further information.
Single-use plastic bag bans have been working their way up the coast, according to Becky Ryon, the North Coast Office director for the Coastal Conservation League.
Similar ordinances in those areas, she said, are especially important because bags can easily end up in waterways, float out to the ocean and be consumed by fish and animals.
Sea turtles, especially, can mistake floating bags for jellyfish. The plastic can also impact oyster reproduction, and microplastics ingested by fish end up being consumed by people eating seafood.
“We know that the sealife is greatly impacted by plastic bags that end up in the ocean, so it’s important for coastal areas to take steps to ban plastic bags to cut down on that,” Ryon said.
There are 19 plastic bag ordinances across the state, according to the league. While Ryon said there is an initial cost upfront for businesses, they can encourage customers to bring their own bags, carry out items on their own or charge for bags. She recommends reusable bags over paper ones, and said a good rule of thumb is to pick a bag that has handles sewn on.
The Coastal Conservation League wants to see North Myrtle Beach go forward with the ordinance, but wants it to be unrolled slowly and use the first year to focus on education and working with businesses to come up with alternatives to single-use plastics.
Ryon was at a recent cleanup in Conway when she saw an entire plastic bag buried in a riverbank.
“That very easily could have made it into the Waccamaw River and harmed the river life there,” she said.