Reality Check

Plastic bans may not have as big an impact on restaurants as some think

With nearly a dozen coastal communities banning single-use plastics and styrofoam, it means restaurants will have to adjust.

Among the 11 bans along the Lowcountry coast,

  • The Isle of Palms was the first when they approved it in 2015.
  • Folly Beach in 2016
  • Sullivan's Island went into effect on December 1.
  • Mount Pleasant in April 2019.
  • Charleston in January 2020.

The Goal is to keep plastics out of our waterways.

"Plastic and styrofoam are the top 5 things that we find when we do our beach sweeps or our marsh sweeps," said Kate Dittloff of the Surfrider Foundation. "You don't realize how much is lying in that pluff mud and how disgusting it is."

On the other side of this is the potential impact on the businesses that use those plastics, particularly restaurants.

Wade Boals owns several Lowcountry restaurants including Saltwater Cowboys on Shem Creek. He says he saw these ordinances coming but made the decisions about limiting those items in his restaurant because of where they are located.

"We try to do the right things and use things that are compostable and good for the ecology... Shem Creek is right next to us so we want to be conscious of that as well," said Boals.

Boals said the environmentally friendly to-go boxes are about the same price as the styrofoam version. However, there was sticker-shock when it came to the straws.

"We investigated the paper straws and they were seven to 10 times more than plastic so we just chose to not give straws out only give them upon request," Boals said.

When it comes to prices, Boals doesn't expect restaurants to take on any dramatic increases. Customers just may have to get used to not getting a straw, or bringing their own.


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