Allegheny County Council could consider a ban on single-use plastic bags, similar to the one recently implemented by the city of Pittsburgh.
The ordinance was introduced at a meeting Tuesday and referred to council’s committee on sustainability and green initiatives. The committee will deliberate on and consider potential changes to the bill, and then decide whether to forward it to the full council.
The legislation would require customers to use reusable bags or pay a 10-cent fee to receive a paper bag. The retailer could keep the money collected or donate it to a charity.
Garbage bags, pet waste bags and food storage bags would be exempt from the bill. And plastic bags could also still be used for purposes that include: bulk-packaging items like fruits and vegetables, wrapping meats or fish, containing unwrapped prepared foods or baked goods, or wrapping potted plants or flowers.
Those who use the Women, Infants and Children aid program could get recycled paper bags for free.
Retailers who violate the policy could be fined up to $5 per noncompliant bag distributed, not to exceed $50 a day.
The ordinance also directs the county Department of Public Works to develop a pilot program to allow individuals and organizations to purchase, donate and distribute reusable bags, and to conduct a study examining how often retailers give customers single-use plastic bags, other plastic bags, and non-recyclable paper bags.
Council first began exploring this issue in February, when it held a hearing to discuss how the body might address plastic pollution in the county. At the time, members said they still had a lot of questions about how a plastic bag ban might be implemented in Allegheny County, which includes 130 municipalities. But they also expressed interest in reducing the negative environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags.
The county legislation estimates that banning single-use plastic bags in the city alone could eliminate more than 108 million plastic bags from the waste stream each year. It was sponsored by members Olivia Bennett, Paul Klein, Michelle Naccarati-Chapkis, and Anita Prizio.
The city ban went into effect this month.