Do you remember all the hullabaloo that surrounded the passing of the notorious soda tax in Philadelphia? I was there. I remember the inappropriate outrage, the do-gooder self-righteousness, and the general Chicken Little-ness of it all. I sense another social storm in our midst, Philadelphia. This time, the topic is banning plastic bags. Surely you have seen this happen in other cities – Boston, Chicago, and Seattle all have enacted bag legislation, if not outright bans. I myself am not 100% against bag bans, but it depends on the circumstances. And, as usual, the Philadelphia City Council is doing the most in terms of pushing legislation that tops everyone else’s.
As proposed by Councilman Mark Squilla for the umpteenth time this past June, the plastic bag ban would prohibit vendors of food and/or alcohol from bagging customers’ purchases in plastic, and would levy a hefty 15-cent fee for other types of disposable bags, like paper. This legislation has failed to make liftoff several times in the last few years, but with the speed that other municipalities around the country are cranking out bag bans left and right (at least 471 local bag regulations in 28 different states and Washington, D.C. currently exist as of today’s date, according to an advocate who tracks the legislation), like-minded Council members are thinking that this could be the bill’s time to shine.
Some states that have entered the bag-ban fray have opted for the “no plastic” route, just like the proposed legislation in Philly. Others have taxed plastic bags, making the consumer pay for each one they use. These laws have shown to significantly cut back on plastic bag consumption. Some argue that removing plastic bags altogether leads to an uptick in the use of other plastic, like trash bags, to fill the void that consumers have in their daily life for plastic bags (bin liners, inexpensive portability, etc).
It remains to be seen what will come of the would-be Philadelphia bag ban, but I see storm clouds in the distance.