HARRISBURG – Bans and fees on single-use plastic bags could prove to be costly and have unintended consequences, according to a study from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, a joint committee of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.
The recently released study highlighted how the COVID-19 virus is an example of how disease can be transmitted by reusing grocery bags, stating “a negative public health consequence may result from having residents rely upon (reusable grocery bags) if single-use plastic bags are banned.”
“This study, along with a similar one from the Independent Fiscal Office, demonstrates that banning single-use plastic bags or imposing fees on them may have unforeseen impacts. We need to know more about these actions before implementing them,” said Rep. John Hershey (R-Mifflin/Juniata/Franklin).
Hershey proposed enacted legislation that prohibits bans or taxes on single-use plastic bags in Pennsylvania until the end of Gov. Tom Wolf’s emergency declaration for COVID-19. He is working on a bill that would extend that prohibition indefinitely.
The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report found that approximately 102 billion plastic bags are used annually in the United States. The report said many are re-used as pet waste receptacles and trash can liners.
The study estimated that, based on life cycles, cotton carrier bags need to be used as many as 7,100 times to reduce their environmental impact to that of a single-use plastic bag. It also noted cigarette butts are a more prevalent litter source than plastic bags in Pennsylvania.
Hershey represents a district with a major manufacturer of plastic bags, providing hundreds of jobs for Juniata Valley residents.
“This issue is not only important for families in the 82nd District, but also for public health and safety. We need to protect Pennsylvanians from municipal taxes or bans that would destroy jobs under the guise of ‘environmentalism,’” Hershey said.
The Independent Fiscal Office’s study found that a statewide ban of plastic bags would increase consumer costs by $72 million based on consumers purchasing other bags and regular trash bags. If the state had a ban on plastic bags, consumers would switch to paper bags and cause 507 jobs to be lost along with $22 million in earnings, the study said.
Representative John Hershey
82nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jennifer Fitch