Following Suit

Philadelphia models a San Francisco ban of Plastic Bags.

Apair of Philadelphia city councilmen are so fed up with the amount of plastic bags in the city's waste stream that they've introduced a bill to ban regular plastic bags from supermarkets and pharmacies, replacing them with recyclable and compostable bags

Councilmen Frank DiCicco and Jim Kenney introduced the bill in September, and it is now waiting to be referred to a committee. The proposed bill targets supermarket and convenience store companies with at least $2 million in annual sales as well as pharmacies with at least five locations in the city under the same ownership. The ban would go into effect six months after becoming a law, and the penalties for violating the ban range from $100 for the first offense, $300 for the second offense within the same year and $500 for each subsequent offense within the same year.

According to the bill, stores would be able to offer customers a choice between biodegradable, 100 percent recyclable paper bags and compostable plastic bags that must be certified and labeled as meeting the current American Society for Testing Materials International standards.

Environmentalists have targeted plastic bags because of their tendency to escape the waste stream and endanger the environment due to their non-biodegradability. In March, San Francisco became the first major city to ban conventional plastic bags. Brian Abernathy, a legislative aid for DiCicco, says the San Francisco ban was a huge influence on Philadelphia's proposed ban. “We definitely used San Francisco as a model,” he says. “But ours is different due to our distinct legislative styles.” In addition to plastic bags, Kenney also is sponsoring a companion bill to ban Styrofoam.