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PennEnvironment Statement: Philadelphia City Council passes legislation to ban single-use plastic bags

For Immediate Release

PHILADELPHIA – After nearly a decade of reviewing and debating citywide legislation to address pollution and litter from single-use plastic bags, Philadelphia City Council took action on the last possible day of the four-year session. Today, City Council passed Councilman Mark Squilla’s Bill # 190610 which will take crucial steps to reduce plastic bag use in the city. 

Through this action, Philadelphia will join hundreds of cities across the nation that have already passed similar legislation in the growing effort to rein in single-use plastics. Bill 190610 sets strong standards for halting the sale or distribution of single-use plastic bags at Philadelphia grocery stores, pharmacies, and corner stores. It also requires paper bags consist of at least 40% recycled post-consumer content and sets stringent fees for retailers who violate the law. 

PennEnvironment worked closely with Councilman Squilla to draft Bill # 190610 and build public support for this proposal. This legislation is a strong first step on the path to curbing plastic waste in the City. 

The bill is expected to be signed by Mayor Jim Kenney and would go into effect on July 2, 2020. 

PennEnvironment’s Executive Director David Masur issued the following statement in response to the announcement:

“After years of debate and input from Philadelphians from every corner of the city and other stakeholders, we applaud City Council for taking this crucial step to address pollution from single-use plastic bags in Philadelphia. This is a major advance in the fight to rein in the scourge of rampant plastic pollution that plagues our neighborhoods; our local parks and green spaces; and our rivers, streams, and oceans.

“Plastic bags are the poster child for the environmental harm caused by single-use plastics. Nothing we use for a few minutes like these plastic bags should be allowed to litter our communities, pollute our environment, and fill our landfills and incinerators for hundreds of years to come. Today’s passage of Bill 190610 sends a strong message that Philadelphia is getting serious about tackling litter and single-use plastic pollution.

“Legislation to tackle plastic bag pollution is broadly supported by Philadelphians from all walks of life and all corners of the city.  Philadelphia joins hundreds of cities across the nation that have already implemented similar legislation. From those laws, we know that policies like Bill 190610 work. By dramatically reducing the distribution, we dramatically reduce the pollution.

“While PennEnvironment had hoped that this legislation would include a fee on all bags distributed at stores and restaurants in the city, there was not the political will to pass such a bill in City Council. This bill is the product of a months-long compromise between Council and environmental interests. We hope that Councilmembers will reconsider implementing a fee in the new session starting in 2020.

“Every Philadelphian has had the experience of watching plastic bags blowing down our streets and through our neighborhoods, seeing plastic bags stuck in curbside trees and bushes, or in our parks and other outdoor places we love. We’ve had enough. Since businesses haven’t taken steps to rein in the plague of plastic bags, we’re relieved that our elected officials have.

“Mayor Kenney has been a longtime supporter of legislation to ban plastic bags, and we are confident that he will sign Bill 190610 into law as one of the premier environmental pieces of legislation in his first term.” 

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PennEnvironment is a statewide citizen-based non-profit environmental advocacy organization working to promote clean air, clean water, and protect our open spaces. To learn more about our work to tackle the threat of single-use plastics, visit www.ZeroWaste4PA.org, or to learn more about any of our issues visit www.PennEnvironment.org