From the office of Councilman Corey O’Connor
Recently, Pittsburgh City Council passed an ordinance to prohibit retail establishments from providing a single-use plastic bag at the point of sale or through delivery. Council Member Erika Strassburger introduced the legislation and Councilman O’Connor was proud to lend his support as a co-sponsor from the time that it was introduced until the bill was passed. The ordinance will go into effect in April of 2023.
The goal of this legislation is to reduce the number of single-use plastic bags in use. This is accomplished by prohibiting retail establishments from giving out single-use plastic bags or non-recycled paper bags. Certain types of plastic bags are exempt, including those used to package perishable items like fruits, vegetables, meat, bakery goods, as well as those used to package medications from a pharmacy.
In place of a plastic bag, a retail establishment can instead offer a customer a recycled paper bag for a fee of not less than $0.10 per bag. The money collected from that fee is retained by the retail establishment. Businesses that accept the use of a voucher issued under the Women, Infants, and Children Program, or an electronic benefits transfer card issued by the Department of Human Services, are required to waive the fee for those customers.
On average, Americans use 100 billion plastic bags yearly. PennEnvironment, using statewide data, estimates that Pittsburgh residents use 108 million bags each year. Single-use plastic bags contribute heavily to waste, litter, and pollution. Although we might only use them for a few minutes, they have an incredibly long lifespan: On top of being made through resource-intensive processes, a single-use plastic bag needs almost 500 years to decompose. They don’t biodegrade in landfills and eventually contaminate our water and soil. They clog municipal recycling machines, storm drains and waterways, and get stuck on roadsides and in trees. This legislation is a step toward confronting those problems.
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