Big Plastic Bag Wins Again

A proposed plastic bag fee in Philly is dead for now.

Yuck. | Photo via

Yuck. | Photo via

Philadelphia lawmakers have tried to both ban and tax plastic bags in the past, only to be beaten by Big Bag.

When Councilman Mark Squilla introduced legislation this year that would add a 5-cent fee to plastic and paper shopping bags, the outcome was supposed to be different. For one, it was much less costly than the 25-cent fee that Council debated in the past. And two, a significant number of cities and states have altogether banned plastic bags.

But on Wednesday, Squilla said that he is tabling the bill for this legislative session.

“We didn’t have enough support,” he said.

Squilla said some lawmakers are concerned that the plastic bag fee would be a regressive tax on poor Philadelphians, which is an argument that the plastics industry has made before. He said other legislators don’t agree that a fee should be added to paper bags as well as plastic ones.

“Me, I think reusable bags are the way to go,” said Squilla.

It’s unclear whether, or to what extent, the plastic bag lobby fought against Squilla’s proposal. He said companies that make the bags never contacted him, but he is “not sure if they spoke to other members.”

Lee Califf is the executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which has lobbied against past proposals to regulate plastic bags in Philly. When asked about the organization’s position on Squilla’s bill, Califf said, “Obviously, we’re opposed to it.” But he said the APBA did not actively lobby against it, though its member companies might have.

Squilla hopes to revive the plastic bag fee again during the next Council session in the fall.

“We’ll try to bring it back,” he said, “maybe get some concessions from the Council members and the advocates for this, see how we can tweak it to make it pass.”

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