Pittsburgh City Council wants to ban plastic bags, but state law won’t let them

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh City Council wants to ban single-use plastic bags, but a state law is standing in the way.

The council passed a resolution Tuesday calling for the citywide ban, but state lawmakers tucked a provision into last year’s budget bill that prohibits any municipality from putting fees or restrictions on single-use plastics, including bags, utensils and Styrofoam containers. That bill ordered legislative agencies to study the economic and environmental impact of a ban and report back.

>>>RELATED: Pittsburgh council considering banning single-use plastic bags

Philadelphia also tried to ban plastic bags and filed a lawsuit in March to challenge that state law. Now that members of the Pittsburgh council have filed a resolution, it could mean Pennsylvania’s two largest cities may fight it.

Locally, Giant Eagle officials had been working to get rid of plastic bags, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into those plans.

>>>RELATED: Giant Eagle to phase out plastic bags by 2025

Philadelphia-based PennEnvironment, a group working to make “our world a greener and healthier place for all,” supports Pittsburgh’s move:

“The message from City Council today was clear: let us ban plastic bags. Pittsburgh now joins their voice to other cities and towns calling directly on Harrisburg. If the General Assembly won’t take action to fight plastic pollution, our local governments will. We applaud Councilmember Strassburger and all the members of Council for their leadership on this issue.

“Single-use plastic is the most common type of litter in Pennsylvania and it poses a danger to our rivers, streams, and wildlife. In fact, PennEnvironment recently found microplastics in every Pennsylvania waterway we studied, including each of the Three Rivers. It’s heartening to see our local leaders take the science to heart and act on it.

“Our municipalities must be empowered to address the issue of plastic pollution when the state legislature won’t. This controversial, anti-environmental policy that strips control away from local officials must be overturned.”