Radnor and Ambler ban single-use plastic bags

Organizers are working to build a foundation for a potential statewide plastic bag ban.

Single-use plastic bags

Single-use plastic bags in use at a ShopRite grocery store. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

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The effort to reduce plastic waste in Pennsylvania has gained two more communities.

Radnor Township’s Board of Commissioners recently passed an ordinance banning the distribution of single-use plastic bags at commercial businesses, making it the 10th municipality in the Commonwealth to do so.

The next day, Ambler Borough went a step further by not just banning plastic bags but also polystyrene food containers.

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Faran Savitz, a zero waste advocate with PennEnvironment, called Radnor a welcome addition to the growing network of communities looking to reduce plastic waste. PennEnvironment, a statewide non-profit environmental advocacy organization, has supplied a lot of research for municipalities trying to ban plastic bags.

“It’s pretty significant because it’s the fourth biggest by population that we’ve seen in Pennsylvania so far and it joins a growing list of other municipalities taking this action, too,” Savitz said.

In Radnor and Ambler, like in other communities, the municipal Environmental Advisory Councils (EACs) played a key role in moving the ordinances forward.

Savitz said that the groups are committed to starting a “cultural shift” to prevent plastic from ending up in waterways, landfills, and incinerators where it ultimately harms the environment.

“Hopefully, we can get to a statewide plastic bag ban. But until we get to a statewide law that creates that shift for people, the more of these we can get past in our communities, the better it’ll be for our environment,” Savitz said.

Philadelphia, West Chester Township, Narberth Borough, and Lower Merion Township were the first communities in Pennsylvania to pass plastic bag bans. Haverford Township enacted a similar ban in April, and Media Borough did the same in July. Radnor’s EAC had been working on this for months.

“It seemed like forever, but I think it was well worth the effort, because I think had we tried to take a shortcut, it wouldn’t have been as successful,” said Margaret Reinhart, chairperson of the Radnor EAC.

The ordinance restricts the sale or distribution of single-use carry-out plastic bags at retailers in Radnor and establishes a $0.10 fee on paper bags. Food pantries are exempt. Businesses that don’t comply will be subject to heavy fines.

The new law goes into effect immediately, however, there is a six-month grace period for businesses to give them time to adjust.

The goal is to influence Radnor’s 33,000 residents to choose a more sustainable option when going shopping, but Reinhart — along with the other EACs in the region — has much loftier goals.

“I sent out emails to all of the other Delaware County townships encouraging them to do the same, and many already started and four of them responded by saying, ‘we’ve been thinking about this, and this was just the impetus needed to work on it some more,’” Reinhart said.

She expects a majority of the townships in Delco to pass similar bans in the future. Reinhart added that uniformity would dispel any confusion that some might have about shopping in certain communities.

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“As far as other plastic endeavors that could come in the future, we don’t have any specific plans. There are other things like styrofoam and other things that could be considered, but we thought we’d start kind of basic here,” Reinhart said.

Next, the EAC will review the possibility of township-wide food composting.

Saturdays just got more interesting.

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