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Faran Savitz,
PennEnvironment

Pittsburgh City Council unanimously passes ban on single-use plastic bags 10 days before Earth Day

Ordinance expected to reduce distribution of nearly 110 million plastic bags annually and decrease plastic litter
For Immediate Release

Pittsburgh-- Just in time for Earth Day, Pittsburgh City Council has unanimously passed a ban on wasteful single-use plastic bags

In doing so, Pittsburgh became the 6th municipality in the commonwealth to pass this kind of policy, joining  Philadelphia, West Chester, and others. The ordinance prohibits retailers and restaurants from distributing single-use plastic bags. Paper bags may be distributed for a charge of at least $0.10 per bag, and they must consist of at least 40% recycled post-consumer content. The bill also requires the City to develop a public education and business assistance plan to help with the transition, as well as a plan to distribute reusable bags to Pittsburgh residents. The law will take effect one year after passage. 

Plastic pollution is one of the most common forms of litter, and plastic bags are particularly harmful  to communities and the environment. Plastic bags litter streets and parks, and frequently clog stormwater infrastructure, exacerbating localized flooding due to heavy rains. They also break down into microplastics which accumulate toxic chemicals and have been found in waterways across the commonwealth, including Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers, Chartiers Creek, and the Youghiogheny River. 

PennEnvironment estimates that nearly 110 million plastic bags are distributed in Pittsburgh every year.  Pittsburgh’s ordinance is a strong first step on the path to curbing plastic waste in the city. 

The bill will go into effect 1 year after passage, giving retailers and shoppers plenty of time to adjust. 

PennEnvironment’s Deputy Director Ashleigh Deemer issued the following statement in response to the announcement: 

“We thank Councilperson Erika Strassburger for championing this issue, and we applaud Pittsburgh City Council for voting unanimously in favor of banning plastic bags. This bill will significantly reduce plastic waste and litter in our communities, parks, and iconic rivers and streams. Nothing we use for five minutes, like single-use plastic bags, should be allowed to litter our communities, pollute our environment, and fill our landfills for hundreds of years to come.”

This legislation is broadly supported by Pittsburgh residents, businesses, and organizations who care deeply about this issue, and have called for action. Upon final passage, Pittsburgh will join hundreds of cities across the country that have already implemented similar policies. From those cities’ experiences, we know that policies like Pittsburgh’s work. By dramatically reducing plastic bag distribution, we will dramatically reduce litter and pollution. 

Joy Braunstein, Western PA Director of Policy for Clean Water Action said, “It is incredibly gratifying to see Pittsburgh ban plastic bags just in time to celebrate Earth Day, there isn’t a bigger blight on our environment, to our waters, than single use plastics that break down to toxic micro plastics. Today marks a win for all of us. I’m grateful to have played a tiny part.”

The Pittsburgh Plastic Bag Ban will now head to Mayor Gainey’s desk for signature. 

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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