“New” Plastic Bag Ban Bill Took 7 Years of Perseverance for a Likely Win
Clean Air Council Attorney Logan Welde didn’t quit, and it may finally pay off.
Councilman Mark Squilla introduced a single-use plastic bag ban, placing a $.15 cent fee on all other paper bags and heavy plastic yesterday in City Council. The effort encourages shoppers to BYOB – bring their own bag to stores. Bags used for fruits, veggies, meats or fish would be exempt from the measure.
Philadelphia uses approximately 1 billion plastic bags each year, and it costs the city between $7 and $12 million dollars to remove them and maintenance.
A coalition of Environmental Groups has been working on the legislation with Councilman Squilla, including the Sierra Club, PennEnvironment, Clean Air Council and Clean Water Action.
What seems like just a simple plastic bag can have a major environmental implication. Beyond the litter that ends up in our streets, storm drains, waterways and trees, there are additional costs that everyday Philadelphians may not realize.
“This litter decreases property value. It increases crime rates, it makes people more depressed to live in those neighborhoods. The truck traffic alone from bringing up billion plastic bags into the city creates a tremendous amount of air pollution. It cuts up our city roads that taxpayers have to pay for. So there’s so many like tangible and intangible costs, just something that people think is just such a simple throwaway item.”– Logan Welde, Clean Air Council.
Perseverance is Crucial to Kill Plastic Bags
This isn’t new legislation to Philadelphia; the first effort began with Frank DiCicco and (now Mayor) Jim Kenney in 2007 and has been discussed or introduced five times.
(Disclaimer: Green Philly spearheaded a “Ban the Bag Day” and petition in 2012, gaining traction on the efforts. As a rebranded media organization, we no longer are involved in political efforts.)
Logan Welde, Staff Attorney and Director of Legislative Affairs of Clean Air Council, has been working on the efforts with Councilman Mark Squilla for seven years. The work didn’t come easy, either. As Welde explained,
“It was just a trudge for seven years of calling offices, meeting with council members, reading other bills, getting statistics, going to offices with excel spreadsheets showing how much Philadelphia is spending, and how much the city would save.”Logan Welde, Clean Air Council
What kept Welde going for seven years on this legislation? His determination to do the right thing.
“It was something that I just kept on plugging away and I didn’t give up hope. I really knew that this was the right legislation and this is the right thing to do for Philadelphia.”Logan Welde, Staff Attorney and Director of Legislative Affairs, Clean Air Council
What else changed after seven years to make this plastic bag-free dream a possible reality? A few unlikely alleys include City Council members, grocers, and others.
If passed in City Council, Mayor Kenney is expected to sign the bill into law.
Plastic bags are just the beginning
As Welde acknowledges, plastic bags are not the sole and major source of pollution of air and water, but it’s important to pursue since it’s such an easy fix for people to change their behavior.
“We have great alternatives to plastic bags ant to single-use paper bags and these are just easy behavior modifications we’re asking people to make to literally save our planet. Down the road, there are going to be harder things. We’re starting with this because this is an easy thing.Logan Welde, Staff Attorney and Director of Legislative Affairs, Clean Air Council
So what’s next for Welde and City Council? Welde has his eyes set on single-use plastic products like straws, plasticware and ban polystyrene/styrofoam. He’d also like to find ways to encourage people to bring their own containers.
Whether it takes another seven years for his next goals, it’s a safe bet that Welde will stay focused on the prize.