Environmentally Acceptable Packaging/Products

Charleston's Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags, Polystyrene/Plastic Foam, Plastic Straws, will take effect January 1, 2020.

View the final Ratified Ordinance (PDF).  Enforcement of the ordinance is set to begin on January 1, 2020. 


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. 

Brief Summary of Ordinance

  • 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 unless they are fully encapsulated (such as surfboards, reusable coolers, noodles, hot tub covers, etc.)

Exemptions/ Exclusions:

  • There are many exemptions or exclusions to the above regulations, such as: newspaper bags, dry cleaning bags, dog poop bags, garbage bags, bulk item bags like nuts and produce, bags used for charity, emergency and medical supplies, meat trays, cutlery, plastic straws upon request, and more. (see page 4 of ordinance for complete list)
  • There is an option to request an exemption any time for any unique circumstance that may arise

Effective Date:

  • A 13 month grace period was built in before the ordinance will take effect (on January 1, 2020)

Public Engagement

We are thankful so many citizens, businesses and organizations have been engaged over the past few years and have contributed ideas and feedback to the discussion about regulating plastics.

Learn more about the history of this discussion in Charleston.

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.