Just last week, the city of Philadelphia held primary elections for both Mayor and City Council. Thanks to all of the hard work of our many member organizations, the Next Great City Coalition played an important role in the election, attracting media coverage and helping to shape the debate with its extraordinary 2015 agenda. No matter who wins after the general election, we know we’ll be working with plenty of new partners in city government – and it’s of critical importance that we keep sustainability issues at the forefront of public debate.
Even better, Next Great City is gaining momentum on its Clean Public Spaces recommendation, with Council introducing legislation that would place a 5-cent fee on all single-use bags to reduce the number of bags used by Philadelphians.
What we know about bags and litter:
- The average Philadelphian uses between 300 and 1,200 plastic bags annually.
- Both paper and plastic single-use bags are a persistent source of litter that cost the city money, harm neighborhoods, and impact water quality.
- Litter reduces neighborhood property values by 7 percent, on average, while encouraging more litter and crime.
- Plastic bags are not recyclable in the city’s single-stream curbside recycling program. In fact, plastic bags damage machinery at recycling facilities.
- According to the Philadelphia Water Department, plastic bags comprise 17 percent of the total waste recovered by skimming Philadelphia’s waterways.
How a 5-cent bag fee can help:
- Household bag usage was cut by 60 percent in Washington D.C. after its law was enacted, and four out of five residents reported using fewer bags.
- This legislation not only benefits communities and the environment but also helps businesses. Businesses will save money by distributing fewer bags to consumers, and they will keep 3 cents every time a customer purchases a 5-cent bag.
- To address affordability concerns, Philadelphia’s proposed 5-cent fee would rank among the lowest of municipalities that have adopted single-use bag fees. Washington D.C.’s experience proves that cities can achieve significant reductions in bag usage and drive behavior change with a 5-cent fee.
What’s another option for participation? Give supportive testimony on behalf of Bill 150373 at the Finance Committee hearing at 10 a.m. on June 10, City Hall Room 400. Contact Katie Bartolotta if you’d like to sign up to speak.
Evidence from peer cities demonstrates that single-use bag fees reduce household consumption of plastic bags and thus the amount of litter that plagues our neighborhoods. Philadelphia has the opportunity to follow the lead of other cities in making our neighborhoods cleaner, safer, and more prosperous. It’s time to take this critical step in cleaning up Philadelphia.
Image via Flickr user Eflon.
Katie Bartolotta is southeastern Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture and is based in Philadelphia. She tweets @KatieBartolotta.