The Coastal Conservation League is working within our community to reduce plastic pollution in the Charleston region.
Recent studies in Charleston waters reveal the presence of microfibers in a variety of marine life, including oysters, one of Charleston’s signature seafood items. It is estimated that seven tons of microplastics are currently in our harbor.
The impacts of plastic bag use are serious. If inappropriately recycled, they destroy machinery at municipal recycling facilities or degrade municipal compost. If littered, they strangle marine species, or break down into tiny fragments of plastic that infiltrate our waterways and work through food webs, including the diets of humans.
Further, the waste picture in the Pacific and Atlantic becomes clearer, and more alarming, every month. We know that there is essentially a smog of plastic in each ocean. Marine life from across the spectrum, from microscopic organisms at the base of the food chain, to pelagic birds like albatross, to dolphins and whales, are ingesting these toxic materials.
The Charleston region is working to make waste management as progressive as possible, but the simple fact is that we all must reduce our waste. Reusing and recycling are not enough. Think of all of the recent debates over where to site new recycling facilities, and where to expand landfills. Then think of the population increases our region faces. We cannot continue to produce and use at our current rate, and so we must take steps to reduce our waste now.
At the local level, we are working on implementation of municipal single-use plastic bag bans. The City of Isle of Palms is the first municipality in the state of South Carolina to implement a municipal-wide ban on single-use plastic bags at point of sale. Our coalition members pushed the initiative on social media and through action alerts, led by concerned citizens.
For several years, we have interviewed business owners in the City of Folly Beach about the impacts of a potential single-use plastic bag ban. The Folly Association of Businesses and Folly council members took up the cause, and unanimously passed two ordinances. The first bans single-use plastic bags, polystyrene (Styrofoam) coolers, and polystyrene to-go containers at point of sale within Folly’s municipal boundaries. The second ordinance bans single-use plastic bags, polystyrene (Styrofoam) coolers, polystyrene to-go containers, and balloons from the beach on Folly.
City of Charleston
In 2016, after hearing from concerned citizens, Mayor Tecklenburg of the City of Charleston convened a “Plastic Bag Minimization” Committee. The Committee, made up of business, conservation, and citizen interests, was tasked with studying the issue of plastic bag use and pollution in Charleston, as well as studying what other municipalities and states have done to address the problem. The Committee developed and distributed an electronic survey for business owners and citizens regarding plastic bag use and opinions on policies. The Committee compiled the data results, and then the Committee’s work was placed on hold. The groups comprising the Committee and the Committee’s work can be found here. It should be noted that all participating groups on the Committee approved of the fact sheet and survey language, as well as the compilation of survey results.
The Town of Mount Pleasant is now considering an ordinance to curb plastic pollution as well. Mount Pleasant Town Council is enthusiastic to learn more about the issue and find a meaningful solution that is most appropriate for its business owners and residents in order to protect their natural resources and public health.
Check out our fact sheet for more information on plastics in the Lowcountry:Coastal SC Plastics Fact Sheet Chas