Pittsburgh City Council introduces single-use plastic bag ban | Environment | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh City Council introduces single-use plastic bag ban

On Nov. 22, Pittsburgh City Councilor Erika Strassburger (D-Shadyside) introduced a bill that would regulate the sale of single-use plastic bags within the Pittsburgh city limits.

If passed, the bill would ban the use of single-use plastic bags, and businesses will be able to provide consumers with a recycled paper bag for a fee of no less than 15 cents. The ban would go into effect 180 days after passage and businesses will also be required to post information in their stores before these changes would take effect. The goal of the bill is to encourage the use of reusable bags and reducing plastic pollution.

Stassburger said in a press release that she is proud of the bill and those groups and elected officials who are standing with her to support the bill.

“The actions of elected and other leaders today will have longstanding ramifications for the children of the 21st century and generations to come,” said Strassburger in a press release. “This plastic bag ban represents one more step in Pittsburgh’s march toward a healthier, more sustainable future, and away from the polluting, throw-away society we have become all too accustomed to.”

The proposed legislation is modeled after a bill passed in Philadelphia that will take effect this year. Earlier this summer, the Pennsylvania General Assembly finally cleared the way for municipalities to implement their own single-use plastic bans. For years, local laws were preempted by state law. Once that change at the state level was made, Strassburger announced her intention to introduce a single-use plastic ban in Pittsburgh.

Statewide environmental advocacy group PennEnvironment supports the bill and worked on it with Strassburger. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, PennEnvironment expects it could prevent more than 108 million single-use plastic bags from entering the region's waste stream, if the legislation is passed.

PennEnvironment Deputy Director Ashleigh Deemer applauded the bill, and said it will be an effective way to curb pollution. “We shouldn’t allow plastic bags that we only use for a few minutes to pollute our rivers, streams, parks, and neighborhoods for hundreds of years — especially when we have so many other options,” said Deemer in a release.

Some businesses have already experimented with limiting and regulating plastic bag use. Before the pandemic, Giant Eagle started a pilot project to remove plastic bags from stores across the Pittsburgh region. Once the pandemic hit, many grocers — including Giant Eagle — were requiring plastic bag use because of safety and health concerns. Now, Giant Eagle says the large grocer is supportive of Strassburger’s bill.

“We applaud Councilperson Strassburger and the City for prioritizing the health of our environment. Giant Eagle shares a vision for a Pittsburgh free of single-use plastic bags and we look forward to helping lead our community on this journey in the coming months,” said Giant Eagle spokesperson Dan Donovan in a release.

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