Pa. delays restrictions on plastic

Pennsylvania has kicked the proverbial can down the road on the issue of single-use plastics, unlike what has been happening in numerous other states.

For example, Vermont and Maine have just imposed statewide bans on plastic bags while Palo Alto, Calif., and Orlando, Fla., last month passed local restrictions on plastics.

Four states, including New York, have enacted statewide single-use-plastics bans.

And, according to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, since the beginning of this year 200 bills related to single-use plastics have been introduced in state legislatures across the country.

But for better or worse, Pennsylvania has chosen to stand still on the issue of plastic bags and carryout utensils from restaurants — also Styrofoam food take-out containers.

Last month, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation prohibiting the commonwealth’s municipalities from taxing or banning the sale or distribution of plastic bags and other containers, wrappings and bags. The prohibition is for one year while legislative agencies purportedly study the economic and environmental impact of the items.

According to an article in the June 24 Wall Street Journal, only 14 states hadn’t as of that date put in place any bans applying to the items in question. However, based on what happened in Harrisburg late last month, that number apparently has increased to 15.

In that Journal article, Pennsylvania had been listed as among 16 states plus the District of Columbia where lawmakers were reported to be enacting local bans against plastics intended for one-time use. But th Keystone State really wasn’t as far along as the June 24 article seemed to indicate.

A June 28 Associated Press article said Pennsylvania Senate Republican Leader Jake Corman of Centre County sought the delay because his district includes a plastics manufacturer, as well as a township considering a plastic bag fee. That article also noted that Philadelphia city officials were considering a ban on plastic bags and a fee on reusable bags that many stores provide.

It’s worth noting that In 2017, Wolf vetoed legislation that would have prevented counties and municipalities from taxing or banning plastic bags.

Back in April, the policy and action group PennEnvironment, which touts its mission as trying to build a greener, healthier world, predicted that a long journey was ahead in the Keystone State in terms of tackling the environmental and health problems posed by waste, litter and single-use plastics. It is clear now that the prediction was on target.

Again, for better or worse, Pennsylvania officials found it easier to “kick the can.”

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