Citing the dramatic environmental damage caused by single-use plastic bags, Doylestown Borough hopes to adopt an ordinance to ban retail businesses from providing customers with the bags and non-recycled paper bags.
A reusable paper bag or other reusable bag can be provided to the customer for 15 cents.
During a meeting last week, the borough’s environmental advisory council outlined its rationale for the proposed law and asked business owners to weigh-in on the issue.
“Our goal is to reduce waste,” the EAC’s chairman, George Mullikin, told the audience of about 50 to 60 people, many Doylestown business owners.
Tens of millions of tons of waste are produced every year, with less than 6 percent able to be recycled, Mullikin said. “It ends up in our environment, one way or other.”
Unlike some materials, plastic does not biodegrade, it breaks down into microplastics that pollute waterways, drinking water and the air. People are breathing in microplastics and they have been found in their blood.
Faran Savitz, a conservation associate at the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center, attended the meeting and discussed the severity of pollution from plastics and the financial cost.
Some $70 million is spent in litter removal every year in Pennsylvania’s nine largest cities, said Savitz.
Commenting on an earlier study by PennEnvironment that tested 53 waterways in the state and found microplastics in all of them, he said, “The results of this study should set off alarms for all Pennsylvanians who love our state’s rivers and streams. The staggering amount of microplastics we found likely means that no river, lake, or stream is safe from this increasingly common contaminant.”
Business owner Jona Franklin expressed “sorrow” that the council “didn’t talk with the business community first. No one wants to be wasteful,” she said, adding that charging a fee puts businesses in “an awkward position.” Franklin suggested making the effort voluntary.
Another businesswoman said the ban “could be turned into a complete positive” by donating funds from the 15 cent fee to charity. One owner said, “you can’t drop the charge on people all at once.” Instead of charging a fee, he said, “you can reward people for bringing their own” bag.
“It seems heavy-handed,” said another businessman, of the ban.
In 2019, the EAC, which has been studying the issue since 2016, conducted a survey on single-use plastics in the borough. Some 80 percent responded, with a significant majority supporting limiting their use, the borough reported.
That same year, Pennsylvania legislators placed a moratorium on bans that effectively blocked towns and cities from implementing such ordinances, but that initiative expired in 2021. Since then, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and West Chester, among other municipalities, have passed bans on single-use plastic bags.
Surrounding communities, including Solebury Township, have banned single-use plastic bags, as has the state of New Jersey.