Pennsylvania’s efforts to stop local plastic bag bans are declining

Wynnewood’s Richard Gelber sat outside a Narberth bakery Wednesday watching a bag fly down the street and said he thought bans were more effective than charges.

“I actually think the ban on plastic bags is a great idea because I’m a paddler and you see fish and frogs wrapped in plastic bags in otherwise beautiful parks,” said Gelber. “Is it awkward or difficult because I often forget to bring a reusable bag myself? Yes.”

Tracy Tumolo, owner of the Sweet Mable Gift Store in Narberth, said she supports restrictions on plastic bags and has provided reusable or recycled bags over and over again. However, she fears the pandemic has been a setback in reducing plastic usage.

“When COVID struck, things started slipping away,” said Tumulo.

Lower Merion joined the municipalities’ lawsuit as prevention would prevent the municipality from enacting a ban on single-use plastics.

Last summer, lawmakers extended a moratorium on the plastic bag ban in 2019 by adding it to the Tax Code (HB1083) just hours before a full vote, with little debate and no public hearing.

The measure was hidden between parts of an amendment to the use of government gambling revenues. It forbade municipalities to impose fees or restrictions on any single-use plastic such as bags, utensils, or styrofoam containers. Legislators said it needed to study the effects of such bans.

However, since then, concerns about plastics have risen, and many democratic lawmakers who may once backed the measure have either been ousted or have changed their minds.

While environmentalists hail the disappearance of the ban on bags in this year’s budget, some are still cautious.

“I think we should always be concerned about policies that are not in the public interest but where polluters have a financial stake in the outcome,” said PennEnvironment’s David Masur. “You can raise your ugly head anytime, any year.”

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