Pittsburgh City Council has approved a bill that will ban single-use plastic bags, reducing the distribution of nearly 110 million bags annually. Pittsburgh is the sixth municipality in the commonwealth to pass this kind of legislation, joining Philadelphia, West Chester and others. The ban was first proposed by Pittsburgh Councilwoman Erika Strassburger last fall, but was paused because of supply-chain and inflation concerns expressed by small businesses and community members. The bill, Strassburger said, had many issues that had to be worked out before it could become actionable legislation. Issues included enforcement of the ban, public education initiatives and the timing for when it would go into effect.
The ordinance, which will go into effect next year primarily impacts retailers and restaurants. Paper bags may be distributed at a cost of at least $0.10 per bag, and they must consist of at least 40% recycled post-consumer content. Shoppers who use cards or vouchers from either the Woman, Infants and Children program or an EBT transfer card will be exempted from the 10-cent fee. 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.
“This landmark piece of legislation will sharply curtail litter, mitigate stormwater risk, reduce the amount of microplastics in our soil and water, improve the City’s recycling efficacy, and begin to break our dependence on fossil fuel-based products,” Strassburger said in a statement. “A dedicated group of stakeholders has been working for several months in order to craft an effective and equitable policy, and the feedback we received during working sessions was incorporated into a much-improved final bill.”