Operations throughout the City of Charleston, (and the Town of James Island, and Charleston County unincorporated areas) are now required, as of January 1, 2020, to eliminate use of single-use plastic carryout and merchandise bags, as well as certain plastic carryout and food packaging items.
“Single-use plastic carryout bags” may not be provided to customers
“Disposable food service ware / to go packaging / food packaging materials” (clamshells, bowls, plates, cups, straws, stirrers, etc.)
that contains polystyrene/plastic foam (sometimes called Styrofoam™) may not be provided to customers
shall be recyclable or compostable
“Polystyrene/plastic foam products” (foam coolers, cups, plates, packing peanuts, etc.) may not be sold, rented or supplied to customers
There are specialty items that are not restricted or are exempt from restrictions. Please see the ordinance dated 9/24/19 and flyer for more information.
To offer time for establishments to utilize current inventory and plan for future compliance, a 13 month grace period was built in so the ordinance took effect on January 1, 2020.
To help support community-wide behavioral change, business establishments within the City limits are strongly encouraged to provide prominently displayed signage advising customers of the benefit of reducing, reusing and recycling and promoting the use of reusable carryout bags by customers.
In Charleston, our environment is essential to our economy.
This ordinance is designed to protect the engine of our economy and livability of our City so businesses, particularly those influenced by tourism, and residents can continue to enjoy what the beauty and bounty of Charleston's waterways offer for generations to come.
Survey Results: Results of a 2016 local survey (PDF) on plastic bags that received almost 5,000 responses from businesses and citizens who overwhelmingly support a ban on plastic bags.
Requests for Exemption
UPDATE: Due to COVID-19, an emergency ordinance was passed by City Council on March 20, 2020 to suspend enforcement of this ordinance for 60 days. In May, the suspension was extended to last until June 30, 2020. Enforcement began again on July 1, 2020.
Establishments may file for a temporary exemption if you qualify for one of the below reasons. Read below to see if you qualify, and how to apply.
Undue Hardship or Practical Difficulty (includes excess inventory) not generally applicable to other persons in similar circumstances (up to one year exemption, applies to entire Article V)
Applications for an Undue Hardship or Practical Difficulty (not including excess inventory) should prove proactive efforts have been made and be substantiated with factual evidence of why the hardship or difficulty exists despite best efforts to uphold the spirit of the ordinance.
Applications for excess inventory should include proof excess inventory was purchased prior to 11/27/18, the date of ratification. The City may ask for information periodically on inventory reduction and remaining stock.
Public Health and Safety Requirement or Medical Necessity to use the product (up to one year exemption, applies to foam products only)
If you qualify for either of the above reasons, (AND are located within City limits) your next step is to request an exemption by completing an exemption application. Please be sure to explain clearly why you feel like you qualify for an exemption. Please also remember to attach documents that support your claim. Please note, approved requests may be posted publicly on the City’s website.