Philadelphia’s City Council is considering a ban on plastic bags and a fee for paper or other kinds of bags. There are least 471 local bag regulations in 28 different states and Washington, D.C., according to an advocate who tracks the legislation. “At least once a week over the last four years, there’s been a new municipality that has passed legislation on this,” said Logan Welde, a staff attorney with the Clean Air Council in Philadelphia. “There are so many examples now.”
The rapid spread of plastic bag regulations could make it easier for Philadelphia to enact its own legislation after years of failed attempts. Philadelphia grocery store owner Jeff Brown, for example, opposed previous efforts at regulating plastic bags, but now cites the “movement sweeping the country” as a reason for dropping his lobbying efforts this time. Other cities’ work also gave Councilman Mark Squilla, who introduced the bill in June, plenty of examples to consider. “We looked at all of them,” Squilla said. “Everybody has a little bit of a different spin.”
Large cities with bag regulations also include Boston, Chicago, and Seattle. Many smaller municipalities have them, too — Narberth’s 10-cent fee for plastic and other types of bags went into effect in April, making it the first municipality in Pennsylvania to regulate bag use. “My big takeaway is there’s a lot of different policies that can have a big effect,” said Tatiana Homonoff, an assistant professor of economics and public policy at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service.
State legislatures have passed bag policies in California, New York, Oregon, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, and Delaware. Fourteen states, including Pennsylvania, have so-called preemption laws on the books that block local bag regulations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Pennsylvania’s law, passed this year, prohibits local legislation for a one-year period that ends in July. Squilla has said he will amend his bill to take effect July 1.