FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2022
Pittsburgh City Council Enacts Councilperson Strassburger’s Single-Use Plastic Bag Ban Legislation
PITTSBURGH, PA (April 12, 2022) - This morning, City Council took a historic step by making Pittsburgh the latest municipality to enact a ban on the distribution of single-use plastic bags by retail businesses at checkout or delivery. Under the new legislation:
Retailers will be able to provide a consumer with a recycled paper bag for a fee of no less than 10 cents; the fee will be fully recouped by the retailer.
Shoppers who use cards or vouchers from either the Women, Infants, and Children program or an EBT transfer card issued by DHS will be exempted from the 10 cent fee.
Limited types of plastic bags will still be available for individual purchase or under certain exceptions.
Businesses will be required to post information in their stores in advance of these changes.
"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,” Councilperson Erika Strassburger said of the ban. “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.”
The legislation was originally introduced by Councilperson Strassburger in November 2021, held for several months in order to sharpen details related to equity and implementation, and amended during Council’s Standing Committee last Wednesday. It was unanimously recommended out of committee and passed by a 7-0 vote in regular session today. Councilmen Kraus, O’Connor, and Wilson co-sponsored the measure. Councilperson Strassburger also wishes to highlight the strong support voiced by Councilman Coghill and Councilwoman Gross during Standing Committee last week, as well as the votes of her colleagues.
Councilperson Strassburger has been working in partnership with non-profit organizations, business leaders, university leaders, and other stakeholders to ensure this ordinance is well-researched, legally sound, and equitable in practice. PennEnvironment, led by Deputy Director Ashleigh Deemer, provided integral advocacy for this initiative. Sustainable Pittsburgh and their work with the Plastics Collaborative, a coalition devoted to re-thinking our reliance on plastic, was vital to the effort. Humane Action Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council provided crucial feedback during our work sessions throughout the process. The Councilperson also recognizes the input of Logan Welde from the Clean Air Council, the Pennsylvania Resources Council, the City’s Office of Sustainability and Resilience and Department of Environmental Services, respectively, and sustainability leaders from the amazing universities in our city. Outreach and educational materials produced by Chatham students in Dr. Jennie Sweet-Cushman's class were hugely valuable. The office also received consultation from business and labor groups including Chef Claudy Pierre and the EAT initiative, Giant Eagle—who is committed to the elimination of single-use plastics from all corporate operations by 2025—United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, and several individual restaurants and store owners. The drafting of the ban was a collaborative effort, and the implementation will rely on the same level of coordination from partners inside and outside government.
Americans use 100 billion plastic bags per year, which requires 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture. Besides the impacts of the pollution from the manufacturing process on the environment and public health, single-use plastic bags also contribute to litter in communities, collect in waterways, and clog storm drains, which can increase flooding in neighborhoods during wet weather events. In 2021, PennEnvironment released a report that found microplastics in 100 percent of tested Pennsylvania waterways. Single-use plastic bags also obstruct the City’s recycling machines and take 500 years to decompose in a landfill.
The legislation will take effect one year from today, giving both shoppers and retailers ample time to ready themselves for full implementation. Click here to view the full text of the legislation.