Environmentally Acceptable Packaging/Products

Beginning January 1, 2020, operations throughout Charleston will be required to eliminate use of single-use plastic carryout and merchandise bags, as well as certain plastic carryout and food packaging items.

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 Ordinancereusable bag vs plastic

  • 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 (January 1, 2020) in the hopes of offering time for most businesses to utilize current inventory and plan for future compliance.  

Possible Amendment

The City has received feedback and requests to further clarify a few of the exemptions in the ordinance.  In anticipation the clarifications will help support a smoother transition period, the City's Resiliency and Sustainability Advisory Committee reviewed these clarification requests at their meeting on 8/8/19 and voted in favor of recommending the minor changes to advance for City Council's review and consideration in September 2019.  As the City continues to strive for consistency in ordinances on a regional basis, please know this potential amendment mirrors an amendment recently approved in Mount Pleasant earlier this year.  A draft of the proposed amendment is posted here, if you have any questions, comments or concerns, please contact Katie at (843) 724-3789 or mckaink@charleston-sc.gov.  Thank you.  

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.