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Victory! Just in time for Earth Day, Pittsburgh City Council unanimously passed a ban on wasteful single-use plastic bags. The ordinance is expected to reduce distribution of nearly 110 million plastic bags annually and decrease plastic litter. Clean Water Action is grateful to have played a part in making this happen. Thank you to every member and supporter who took action!

Pittsburgh is now the 6th municipality in the commonwealth to pass this kind of policy, joining Philadelphia, West Chester, and others. The ordinance prohibits retailers and restaurants from distributing single-use plastic bags. Paper bags may be distributed for a charge of at least $0.10 per bag, and they must consist of at least 40% recycled post-consumer content. The bill also requires the City to develop a public education and business assistance plan to help with the transition, as well as a plan to distribute reusable bags to Pittsburgh residents. The law will take effect one year after passage. 

Plastic pollution is one of the most common forms of litter, and plastic bags are particularly harmful to communities and the environment. Plastic bags litter streets and parks, and frequently clog stormwater infrastructure, exacerbating localized flooding due to heavy rains. They also break down into microplastics which accumulate toxic chemicals and have been found in waterways across the commonwealth, including Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers, Chartiers Creek, and the Youghiogheny River. 

Pittsburgh’s ordinance is a strong first step on the path to curbing plastic waste in the city. The bill will go into effect 1 year after passage, giving retailers and shoppers plenty of time to adjust. 

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