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Philadelphia, West Chester, and Narberth sue PA for the right to Enforce Plastic Bag legislation
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Philadelphia, West Chester, and Narberth sue PA for the right to Enforce Plastic Bag legislation

Local environmental groups held press conference yesterday about the lawsuit.

Local municipalities are fighting the state to eliminate plastic bag litter.

The City of Philadelphia along with West Chester, Township of Lower Merion, Borough of Narberth are suing the state to enact and enforce plastic bag legislation. The legislation was filed yesterday in the Commonwealth Court. The Office of Sustainability held a press confernece to discuss the action.

Pennsylvania General Assembly passed an amendment to “enact or enforce a law, rule, regulation or ordinance imposing a tax on or relation to the use, disposition, sale, prohibition or restriction of single-use plastics” on May 29, 2020. Philadelphia passed the single-use bag ban in December 2019.

Technically, enforcing plastic bag legislation right now isn’t compliant with the state regulations. However, environmental groups say PA’s power move is more in line with the plastic industry’s goals than our state constitution. SEE: Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which provides that “[t]he people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”

The journey from here to see plastic bags eliminated is still in the distant future. Here’s the city’s current timeline:

ActionDate
Philly sues State of PA3/3/21
Philly implements single-use plastic bag ban7/1/21
Stores must post signage that single-use bags and non-recycled content paper bags won’t be provided7/31/21
Education & warning period Oct 1, 2021 – April 1, 2022
Plastic bag ban enforced ($75 fee for store owners)April 2, 2022

Despite the lawsuit, the city doesn’t anticipate any interruptions to the implementation and enforcement timeline.

Why implement a plastic bag ban in Philadelphia?

“Philadelphia alone consumes an estimated 1 billion plastic bags per year,” as Staff Attorney & Director of Legislative Affairs of Clean Air Council, Logan Welde, stated during the press conference. Plastic bags and styrofoam also release a big environmental threat in the form of microplastics, as PennEnvrionment Director David Masur explained.

And there’s not just an environmental cost, but one for business owners, too.

The purchase of plastic bags costs businesses an estimated $20 million each year, according to Welde.

The plastic bag ban will change that. “The goal of this is to get people to bring their own bags. That’s what this legislation has does and proven to do throughout every municipality,” said Welde.

The ban has already seen positive impacts in other cities. “New York City just implemented plastic bag ban and fee, and you can barely see any plastic bags on the streets,” shared Welde. “There are no plastic bags floating around; they’re all gone.”

Cover photo: Philadelphia’s “urban tumbleweed”, courtesy of Logan Welde.


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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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