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Town of James Island is on its way to banning single-use plastic bags

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The Town of James Island recently took its first step toward banning single-use plastic bags. The City of Charleston passed a similar measure in November. File/Wade Spees/Staff

The town of James Island is one step closer to joining its coastal neighbors in banning single-use plastic bags, straws and foam containers.

Council members on Thursday unanimously approved first reading of an ordinance that would prohibit the difficult-to-recycle items from being used or sold at businesses, restaurants and grocery stores in the town.

The ban would also apply to the town itself, barring the disposable items from town-owned property and at town-sponsored events.

If the measure passes second reading in January, the town will become the latest in a string of South Carolina municipalities to enact this type of ban in recent years.

Businesses would have a year to get ready before it goes into effect.

Mayor Bill Woolsey said the ordinance would bring consistency to the town sandwiched between the city of Charleston and Folly Beach.

Woolsey said "it's important for us to show solidarity with our beachfront communities that have passed similar bans." 

James Island does not have any grocery stores in its jurisdiction that would be affected by the new ordinance. The largest retailers affected by the ban would be Walgreens and Dollar General, along with restaurants like Bojangles, Sonic, Chic-fil-A and Zaxbys. 

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"The town reached out to the businesses, and we did not receive any opposition," Woolsey said.

More than 30 people spoke about the measure, but Woolsey said no one spoke against it. It passed council 5-0.

Town Councilman Garrett Milliken said part of the reason there was no opposition was because during the public comment period, children walked to the podium to tell adults why they should vote for it.

The kids held handmade signs while they spoke, and Milliken said the young activists also brought a petition to council with more than 300 signatures in support of the ban.

"I'll tell you what. I was going into this thing thinking maybe we could pass it, maybe we had three votes," he said. "But when the councilmen saw the kids up there talking, it really swayed them. I watched their faces. They went from stern to melting."

More than 10 municipalities in South Carolina have voted to ban single-use plastics. Isle of Palms was the first to do so in 2015. The city of Georgetown, North Myrtle Beach and Richland County are also reportedly considering similar measures. 

Woolsey said he is confident council will pass a second reading, but Milliken said lobbyists for plastic packaging could try to upend the efforts.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

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