Vitali: Bill prevents municipalities from addressing plastic bag problems

HARRISBURG, Oct. 20 – State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-Delaware/Montgomery, today urged opposition to a bill that would prevent municipalities from dealing with the problems caused by single-use plastic bags. 


Specifically, under the bill, H.B. 1280, municipalities would be prohibited from imposing a ban, fee, surcharge or tax on a single-use plastic bag provided by a retail establishment such as a supermarket.


The bill is scheduled to be considered by the Pennsylvania House on final passage on Monday, so Vitali urges concerned residents to contact their state representative and tell them to vote "no" on the bill.


Vitali, the Democratic chairman of the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, said this is a bad environmental bill because municipalities should be able to develop strategies to address the plastic bag issue.


Plastic bags are a significant environmental problem, Vitali said, noting that they negatively impact oceans, rivers and lakes; stress landfills and clog stormwater drains.


According to the Worldwatch Institute, Americans throw away an estimated 100 billion plastic grocery bags every year.


The bill is being driven by the plastic bag industry. Novolex, a world leader in plastic bag manufacturing, owns the Helix Poly plant in Milesburg, which is in the district of one of the prime sponsors of the bill, Vitali said.


The bill is opposed by numerous groups, including PennFuture, PennEnvironment, Clean Water Action, Conservation Voters, Clean Air Council, Sierra Club, Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs and Sustainable Business Network.


Vitali argued that municipalities should have access to every possible tool to address the problems caused by plastic bags.


Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla has introduced legislation that would impose a fee on plastic bags in the city of Philadelphia. This bill would prevent that legislation from being implemented.


Numerous towns and cities across the United States have imposed fees or bans, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York City. 


In 2002, Ireland implemented a plastic bag tax, which eliminated virtually all single-use plastic bags in that country within a year.


"The best outcome would be to eliminate single-use plastic bags and to shift to durable, multiple use bags," Vitali said. "We know this is achievable as it has already been accomplished in Ireland."