FOLLY BEACH — This city has become the first in South Carolina to ban from the beach plastic carry-out bags, balloons, and food and drink containers made of expanded polystyrene foam or Styrofoam.
The prohibition, effective immediately, is aimed at reducing beach litter and preventing potential harm to marine life.
“This is just one small step for the health of the environment,” Mayor Tim Goodwin said.
“Our ocean and our ocean life are the most important pieces of what makes Folly so special, and we have to do our part to preserve our piece of paradise,” he said.
Tuesday’s unanimous City Council vote makes Folly Beach the only municipality in South Carolina to ban the items both within city limits and on the beach. Starting Jan. 1, retailers will be prohibited from distributing single-use plastic bags and polystyrene coolers, containers and cups at the point of sale. That ordinance was passed about a month ago.
Violators of the beach ban could face up to a $500 fine or 30 days in jail, but city officials said they will stress education and awareness of the new ordinance rather than punishment.
The Beach Patrol will keep an eye out for violators.
“As they ride along, if they see somebody with a cooler, they can ask them to remove it. They can say you’re going to remove it or here’s your ticket,” Goodwin said.
For the next few months, the city, local businesses and nonprofit partners will work to inform residents and visitors about the new ordinances. Lewis Dodson, president of the Folly Association of Businesses, said members of the organization support the change.
“We saw the damage that non-recyclable plastic bags and Styrofoam were inflicting on our most valuable asset, the beach and ocean, and decided to make a change,” Dodson said.
Marine scientists say that plastic and foam products pose a significant risk to fish, turtles and seabirds. One study estimated that half of the sea turtles and 90 percent of the seabirds on the planet have ingested some form of plastic, which can cause illness and may prove fatal.
Last year, Isle of Palms became the first city in the state to ban single-use plastic bags at retailers. IOP has not moved to ban plastic and foam beverage containers from the beach.
Goodwin likened the situation to the ban on beach drinking passed a few years ago. It resulted in a sharp reduction in beach litter, he said.
San Francisco has passed the most far-reaching ban on plastic foam products in the country so far. Its law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, bans polystyrene in retail sales for a wide range of products, including packing peanuts, ice chests, dock floats and to-go coffee cups. Food-packaging products, such as the meat and fish trays at the supermarket, also will be phased out, according to news reports.
More than 100 cities have limited the foam products in some way, including Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, the Arizona, Idaho, and Missouri legislatures have passed bills preventing local governments from regulating the sale or use of plastic bags.
Reach Prentiss Findlay at (843) 937-5711.