MOUNT PLEASANT — If there are any stalwart fans of plastic straws, they didn't make themselves known Tuesday.
With surprisingly little controversy, no discussion, and no comments from any business or member of the public, Town Council unanimously agreed to prohibit food providers from giving plastic straws to customers starting next year.
It's a major change to town regulations that are scheduled to take effect in April, banning single-use plastic bags and most foam containers. The rules, versions of which have been adopted in many coastal communities, are aimed at keeping plastic and foam materials from fouling creeks, marshes and the ocean.
Councilman Jim Owens has taken the lead on the issue and said Tuesday night that the change to the pending rules comes in response to questions from food vendors.
“This eliminates any ambiguity," he said. "It clears up any confusion and strengthens our ordinance."
The rules adopted by the town earlier this year, but not yet in effect, allowed food providers to give plastic straws, drink lids and cutlery to customers upon request.
However, the same ordinance exempts drink lids and cutlery from the regulations entirely, so the "upon request" rule really just applied to straws.
The change endorsed Tuesday would eliminate the option of giving straws to customers who request them, and that will hold up unless more than half the Town Council members change their minds before a final vote next month.
Owens said the change lets food vendors know that they shouldn't order plastic straws for 2019, when the "Environmentally Acceptable Packaging and Products" ordinance takes effect.
Fast food restaurants and convenience stores, in particular, will have to find alternatives. Some already have started looking. A few major chains including Starbucks has announced plans to phase out plastic straws.
Here's how Mount Pleasant's packaging ordinance has progressed through 2018:
- February: Town officials discuss a potential ban on plastic bags, foam containers and more.
- April: Town Council approves the ban, to take effect a year later.
- June: Businesses in the town make plans, seek alternatives, in preparation for the ban.
- September: With the ban still months away, town council members proposed toughening the rules to ban plastic straws and drink lids.
Some Mount Pleasant businesses already decided they would stop using plastic straws, rather than stock them and only give them out upon request.
“I kind of compare them (plastic straws) to the smoking ban,” David Miller, a partner in The Kickin’ Chicken restaurant group, told The Post and Courier in June. “It seems more popular to not have them than to have them.”