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Doylestown residents support “some restrictions” on plastics

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A recent Doylestown Borough survey found 80 percent of respondents support “some restrictions” on the use of single-use plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam items. Seventy percent favor a ban on single-use plastic bags and straws and 79 percent said they would like to see a ban on Styrofoam containers, said borough Manager John Davis.

The survey, spearheaded by borough council’s environmental and recreation committee, is an effort to help community leaders gauge residents’ and business owners’ feelings about the increasingly prominent issue of banning plastic bags and similar products.

“There’s been a lot of interest from our constituents,” said Wendy Margolis, a borough council member from Ward 1 and chairwoman of the environmental and recreation committee. “With all the pictures on social media and TV of animals and the environment, it gets to people. It’s a visible symptom.” And, “with so many restaurants and businesses in the borough,” it’s become a growing concern, she said.

The “broadest” survey question measured support for reducing the number of single-use plastic bags. Eighty percent of respondents said “yes” to that question, Davis said.

Interest in the issue was strong, said Davis, as the survey received the largest number of responses of any of the six the borough has undertaken over the past several years. In 2013, 311 people responded to a survey about the walkability of the community. The plastic bag survey garnered 2,237 answers.

Seven percent of the respondents represented businesses, Davis said. That seven percent represented 151 businesses, the manager noted. The growth of social media likely added to the widespread response, Davis said.

Any consideration of restrictions or bans is somewhat irrelevant at the moment, however. Pennsylvania instituted its own ban on local ordinances that restrict or tax use of single-use plastic bags when the moratorium was included in the state budget earlier this year, said Davis. That moratorium is set to expire in one year, after state agencies evaluate the potential economic and environmental impact of bans and restrictions.

Some critics of the state’s action point to the Senate’s majority leader, Jake Corman (R-34th Dist.), who has a plastics manufacturing business in his district, for initiating the state’s moratorium.

West Chester recently moved forward with a local ordinance restricting use of plastic bags and straws, despite the state’s restriction. It’s set to take effect in January. How this will move forward in light of Pennsylvania’s moratorium is unclear.

Last October, Narberth approved a law requiring a 10-cent fee for single-use plastic bags and bans the use of plastic straws, unless requested by someone with a disability. It’s the first town in the state to adopt such an ordinance.

Doylestown Borough officials visited Narberth to understand how they designed and implemented their law. Margolis said. “We got inspired and learned a lot. We got all gung ho, then the moratorium hit.”

The borough will continue to move forward in exploring the issue, officials said. “The issue isn’t going away,” said Davis.


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