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Plastic Recycling May 20, 2024 11:40:26 AM

Survey: Over 80% of Pittsburgh Businesses Complying with City’s Plastic Bag Ban

Paul Ploumis
ScrapMonster Author
The law also requires businesses to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for any paper bags that they provide to customers.

Survey: Over 80% of Pittsburgh Businesses Complying with City’s Plastic Bag Ban

SEATTLE (Scrap Monster):  Roughly five months after Pittsburgh’s ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect, a survey of dozens of local retail businesses conducted by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center found that local retailers have largely eliminated the once-ubiquitous plastic bag. 

Staff and volunteers from the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center visited 50 businesses across the city to investigate if they’re complying with Pittsburgh’s single-use plastic bag ban. Of those surveyed, 82% of the locations were no longer distributing plastic bags. Retail establishments are doing especially well, with 26 of 28 (93%) of those surveyed found to be plastic bag-free.

Unfortunately, restaurants lag behind. Only 15 of the 22 (68%) restaurants surveyed were in compliance with the city’s ban. Of the nine businesses found to be violating the law and giving out plastic bags, seven were restaurants. 

Before the law, Pittsburghers used an estimated 110 million single-use plastic bags every year. The citywide ban was passed in 2022 to help reduce litter and protect against this pervasive plastic pollution. The good news is that our survey shows that Pittsburgh is well on the way to achieving that goal. Yet lingering violations, primarily by restaurants in the city, keep Pittsburgh from meeting its full potential and eliminating the waste from single-use plastic bags.

To maximize benefits to our communities, wildlife, and environment, it’s critical that businesses comply with Pittsburgh’s important waste reduction law. A recent report found that bans in five U.S. states and cities have already cut single-use plastic bag consumption by about 6 billion bags per year, or enough bags to circle the earth 42 times.

Pittsburgh’s ordinance forbids the distribution of any plastic bag made through a “blown-film extrusion” process, which is used to make essentially all single-use plastic bags,  at retail locations in the city including supermarkets, convenience stores, service stations, department stores, dollar stores, clothing stores, restaurants, food trucks, farmers’ markets or delivery services.

The law also requires businesses to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for any paper bags that they provide to customers. This bag fee is a critical part of the law and helps incentivize shoppers to bring their own reusable alternatives from home, or not use any bag at all. Although the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center survey only looked to see if businesses were complying with the plastic bag ban, it’s vital that businesses also charge for paper bags and clearly mark that fee on receipts to help move Pittsburgh away from a throwaway mindset. 

In light of our findings, the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center recommends the following to help move Pittsburgh businesses toward 100% compliance with the city’s single-use plastic bag ban:

  1.       Greater education of businesses about the steps they must take to comply with the city’s single-use plastic bag ban.
  2.       Greater enforcement to deter businesses that violate the law, and show that it won’t pay to be a bad actor. This is also critical in order to ensure that businesses complying with the law don’t have a competitive disadvantage to those who are violating it. 
  3.       City officials should put a specific focus on restaurants in the city in order to improve the compliance rates for this sector, which lag behind other business sectors in Pittsburgh.

When local residents come across Pittsburgh retailers that appear to be violating the city’s single-use plastic bag ban, they should report them to 311 or through the City’s online complaint portal. Reports go to the environmental enforcement manager, who can help businesses comply with the law and issue warnings or fines to noncompliant companies. 

For more information on PennEnvironment’s work on policies to tackle plastic in Pennsylvania, visit our comprehensive toolkit, map of plastic bans across the Commonwealth, and our recent study on bag ban successes nationwide.

 Courtesy: www.environmantamerica.org

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