The City of North Myrtle Beach will likely stay the course in banning single-use plastic bags without making any substantial changes to the ordinance following a workshop on Monday.
The law, scheduled to go into effect in 2021 if passed, would ban single-use, carryout plastic bags distributed by retailers to customers at the point of sale. It does not include a host of plastic bags used for other purposes, including pet waste bags, medicine bags, newspaper bags, yard waste bags, trash bags, and bags used to prevent food from contaminating other merchandise within a reusable bag.
In response to the proposed bag ban, the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce sent out a survey to its members, and the results of the survey were sent to city council members before first reading of the ordinance.
One suggestion was that instead of banning the bags, businesses could offer customers a 5-cent credit on their bill for reusable bags, and the 5 cents levied on non-reusable bags could be put into an awareness campaign.
But that suggestion is not likely to make it into the final version of the law, and council members did not ask staff to make any changes to the existing draft of the ordinance.
“I don’t think there will be any changes,” said Mayor Marilyn Hatley. “After listening to the businesses, I think their biggest concern from the chamber was not the fact that we shouldn’t do something. It was just that we give the businesses time to make the changes and we educate the people.”
The ban was on the council agenda for the Monday night city council meeting with a recommendation to table until the April 15 meeting.
“We didn’t know if we were going to make changes or just what was going to happen at the workshop,” said Hatley. “There’s no reason to rush, it’ll probably be brought to the next council meeting.”
Chamber President Cheryl Kilday said the business community was concerned about public awareness, since North Myrtle is a tourism destination.
“People come in various times of the year, months or weeks at a time, so our community awareness campaign can’t be something we just do once,” Kilday said. “We do want to make sure that we don’t make people feel badly if they come here and they’re not prepared. I just want to make sure that however we do this, that [we don’t] make new residents or visitors feel like they’re doing something wrong in the way that we enforce it.”
City councilman Bob Cavanaugh said that given society’s changing view on plastic bags and the environment, a ban could be used as a way to lure tourists to North Myrtle Beach.
“Other communities, especially in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, are using this as a marketing advantage, not as a negative,” said Cavanaugh.
There are a handful of other tourist cities on the South Carolina coast that have passed similar bans. They include Charleston, Hilton Head, Folly Beach and Mt. Pleasant, among others. In Horry County, only Surfside Beach has banned plastic bags, meaning North Myrtle Beach could be the second city on the Grand Strand to vote for such a law.
Hatley, responding to the chamber’s concerns about public awareness, said the city would start advertising the ban well before 2021, the year the ban would go into effect.
“People will know come January 2021 we will be a plastic bag-free community,” Hatley said. “We can use that in our advertisement with our businesses and with our chamber, with our city website. ‘Coming soon’ or whatever. So there’s way to advertise it and let people know.”