Environmental organizations applaud Councilman Mark Squilla and City Council for introducing single use bag legislation

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Philadelphia, PA - Today, Clean Air Council, Clean Water Action, Green Philly, PennFuture, and Tookany-Tacony Frankford/Watershed Partnership commended Councilman Mark Squilla and City Council for introducing single use bag legislation that would impose a small fee for any person(s) who uses a single use bag when making a purchase from a retail establishment. Reducing bags is an easy way to tackle the City's ongoing problem with trash that ends up in rivers and streams, clogs storm drains, and negatively impacts neighborhoods. Environmental organizations have been calling for the introduction of a bag bill for many, many months and are delighted by today's news. While environmental organizations are still reviewing the bag bill, they are pleased with early reports.

The Philadelphia Water Department has found that plastic bags comprise 17% of the total debris recovered by their skimming operations. In 2010, Washington D.C. passed legislation to reduce plastic bags and has since reported that 67% of residents are seeing fewer plastic bags as litter and 80% of residents have reduced their usage of single use bags. Philadelphia lags behind some of the largest U.S. cities that have passed bag legislation. Hundreds of municipalities nationwide have adopted some form of bag fee legislation or bag bans. In those cities and towns that have adopted a bag fee, there has been a dramatic decrease in pollution from bags and there is widespread support for the law designed to influence purchasing decisions and individual behavior toward using reusable bags or being conscientious about not taking a bag if it is not needed. Bag legislation would contribute to Philadelphia's goal of being the "Greenest City in America."

"It is truly gratifying to see City Council finally move on this important legislation, the first step needed to clean up our streets and rivers. Clean Water Action has delivered hundreds of letters from our members to City Council in recent weeks calling for a bag bill. The introduction of the bill, a day after Earth Day, could not have come at a better time," noted Mary Donahue, Program Organizer for Clean Water Action.

"We hope by this action, that Philadelphia will now join the ranks of other progressive cities and municipalities and start to tackle these problems. For too long municipalities have allowed stores to distribute "free" single-use bags (mostly plastic bags) which go on to entangle tree branches, clog sewer drains and persist as litter. Litter costs cities millions of dollars in direct cleanup costs, but also untold amounts in indirect costs and harm to neighborhoods" noted Logan Welde, Staff Attorney with Clean Air Council.

The mission of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership is to improve the health of our 30 square mile urban watershed. Every day, we see plastic bags -- too many to count -- not only on our streets and sidewalks, and in trees, ut in storm drains and both in our creeks and along their banks. These plastic bags are forever. They harm wildlife, deter use of parks by the people who live close by, and impair the ability of our partners to recycle and clean up trash," said Julie Slavet, Executive Director.

Julie Hancher, a long time Philadelphia resident, environmental advocate and founder of Green Philly said, "We support legislation that will reduce plastic bags on our streets and continue our path to become the greenest city in America."

"The reality is that for Philadelphia, a clean public environment is a necessity, not a luxury. This legislation strikes the right balance in that it is not unnecessarily burdensome on consumers or merchants but has the potential to significantly decrease the number of bags on our streets and in our waterways. This is a step in the right direction," said Katie Bartolotta, Philadelphia Outreach Coordinator for PennFuture.

"City Council needs to have a robust discussion about bag legislation and offer the public an opportunity to share their views and ideas about single use bag reduction through a series of hearings on the issue. There are many discussions in City Hall occurring around trash and litter, and the single use bag legislation is just one more example of the remedies available to rid the city of trash. City Council should act aggressively on the legislation, but act not out of haste. Mayor Nutter has a chance to cement his environmental legacy for Philadelphia by signing the bill and Philadelphia can get to work tackling litter," noted Brooks Mountcastle, eastern Pennsylvania Director for Clean Water Action.

Over the last year, Clean Water Action has received endorsements from the following 46 organizations and businesses that support the aims of a single use bag campaign (described below):

Antique Showcase · Art in Age · Bario-Neal Jewelry · Bleu Denim

Blink Optics · Briar Vintage · Cadence Cycling & Multisport

Classic Antiques · Cloth · Earth Bread & Brewery · East Mount Airy Neighbors

East Passyunk Crossing Civic Association · Eye's Gallery · Fabric Horse

Fair Food Farmstand · Fairmount Civic Association · Farm to City

Fashion Forward · Fireside Camp Supply · Grid Magazine · Industry

Jahaya's Organic Skin Care · Janus Gallery & Collectibles · King Tut Restaurant

Lavender Hill · Little Baby's Ice Cream · Meadowsweet Mercantile · Metalworks

Mugshots Coffeehouse · Newbold Neighbors Association · Omoi Zakka Shop

Organic Planet LLC · Philadelphia Brewing Company

Saint Bernard Community Garden · Smokey Joe's · Sota Spirit of the Artist

Stan's Health Foods · Sugarcube · The Foodery · The Good Karma Café

The Human League · The Ray of Hope Project · The Rosin Box

Tookany-Tacony Frankford Watershed Partnership · United By Blue

West Passyunk Neighbors Association

The aims of a single-use bag campaign are to:

  • Reduce plastic and paper bags used by Philadelphians;
  • Reduce litter that pollutes our neighborhoods, waterways and clogs storm drains;
  • Encourage consumers and businesses to use reusable bags;
  • Distribute reusable bags to low-income residents; and

    Hold workshops and presentations at community centers

Clean Air Council is a member-supported environmental organization serving the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Council is dedicated to protecting and defending everyone's right to breathe clean air. The Council works through a broad array of related sustainability and public health initiatives, using public education, community action, government oversight, and enforcement of environmental laws. http://www.cleanair.org

Clean Water Action has more than 100,000 members statewide in Pennsylvania and is the nation's largest grassroots group focused on water, energy and environmental health. Clean Water Action's 1 million members nationally work for clean, safe and affordable water, prevention of health-threatening pollution, and creation of environmentally-safe jobs and businesses. Clean Water Action's nonpartisan campaigns empower people to make democracy work. http://www.cleanwater.org

Tookany-Tacony Frankford Watershed Partnership is dedicated to improving the health and vitality of our watershed by engaging our communities in education, stewardship, restoration, and advocacy. We connect people to their creeks. http://www.ttfwatershed.org

PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization founded in 1998 with offices in Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Wilkes-Barre. The organization's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state, and federal courts; advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level; public education; and assisting citizens in public advocacy. http://www.pennfuture.org

Myron Arnowitt