Media Borough becomes latest Philly-area community to ban plastic bags and straws

Pedestrians carry plastic bags in Philadelphia

Pedestrians carry plastic bags, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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Media Borough has become the latest suburban community around Philadelphia in recent months to enact a ban.

Starting January 2023, Media businesses will be prohibited from offering single-use plastic shopping bags, plastic straws, and drink stirrers to customers.

Businesses will have the option to provide patrons with paper bags that have at least 40% recycled paper stock or reusable bags. A 10-cent fee could be added to the customer’s receipt for the use of a paper bag at the discretion of the business. The borough is urging customers to take their own reusable bags when they shop.

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Commercial establishments that fail to comply with the ordinance after July 2023 will receive a written warning and additional infractions will lead to fines of up to $300.

“We just think it’s best for the environment, best for the people of Media, and something that the business leaders in Media will be able to enforce in their own operations,” Borough Councilmember Mark Paikoff said.

After Philadelphia, Narberth Borough, Lower Merion Township, and West Chester Township filed suit against the state legislature to allow for their bans in 2021, other municipalities in the Philadelphia suburbs have followed in their footsteps and enacted their own ordinances. Haverford Township passed a ban in April and Easttown Township did the same in June.

Paikoff said Media modeled its ordinance after some of those others.

“We brought in representatives from West Chester. We talked to representatives from Havertown, as well as Narberth,” he said.

To Paikoff, the most unique thing about the process of bringing Media’s ordinance to life was the involvement of business leaders. Members of Media’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) brought the borough council a rough draft of the ordinance in November.

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Borough officials, in turn, took it to business leaders to get their feedback. They ended up tweaking portions of the ordinance. One of the big issues for the businesses was an initially proposed fee on customers using paper bags.

“The concern from the business standpoint, during a very difficult economy — the first quarter and the second quarter of this year were really awful. For our local businesses, they did not want to tack on any fees, even though that fee would come right back to them,” Paikoff said.

With that feedback in mind, Media officials made the 10-cent fee imposed on customers optional. Paikoff also made it clear that if someone needs a plastic straw, they can still request one. Borough council passed the ordinance on July 21.

As local streams and creeks become inundated with plastic waste, Paikoff believes that there should be a greater sense of urgency to do something about.

“We in Media wanted to make sure that we’re doing our part to keep our local watershed clean, to keep our local water supply as clean as possible, and to protect the environment,” Paikoff said.

“Personally, I really thought this was an effort we needed to take on in Media because all of our trash right now, as you know, is going to Chester to be incinerated, which is contributing to environmental racism and pollution of our own community. So while plastic bags is a very small percentage of what is going to the incinerator — it still makes up a portion of that,” said Media EAC member Erica Burman said.

She said that she sees passing plastic bag bans as a “huge stepping stone” in adopting zero-waste practices.

Pointing to the success of Media’s municipal-wide composting program, Burman is already looking forward to building on the plastic ordinance.

“We’re putting together a list of all of the businesses in Media that offer different sustainability initiatives and that includes refills and reusable takeout containers,” Burman said.

Media officials are currently working to develop a sustainable storefronts initiative to recognize businesses that are taking further steps to reduce their own environmental impact.

“We hope to build off of that and improve sustainability across the borough, but also inspire local municipalities to do the same,” Burman said.

The borough’s EAC is also looking into alternatives to the municipality’s gas-powered vehicle fleet to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.

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