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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: April 30, 2020 08:39 AM
From: Senator David J. Arnold, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Prohibiting local bans on single-use containers during COVID-19 pandemic
In the near future I plan to introduce legislation to prohibit municipalities and local governments from prohibiting the use of single-use containers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the world continues to learn more about the COVID-19 virus and understand how it is transmitted, we need to do everything we can to keep the citizens of the Commonwealth healthy and safe.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, private business such as Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and Tim Hortons have moved to prohibit customers from bringing their own, potentially contaminated personal cups into stores.  They have instituted this change for the safety of the public, patrons, and the workers. 
Grocery stores across the country are prohibiting patrons from bringing their own reusable tote bags into their stores.  Governor Christopher Sununu of New Hampshire has even publicly urged shippers to leave reusable bags at home.  Their reason for the prohibition is simple: COVID-19 is just one of many pathogens that shoppers can spread, unless they wash their bags after use, which few people bother to do or even aware they should be doing.  Some studies have shown that viruses such as COVID-19 can survive on cloth tote bags for up to nine days.
In the name of public safety, Governors, legislatures, Mayors and Councils all across the country are repealing or delaying the implementation of single-use container bans or fees.  For example:
  • Maine’s legislature recently voted to put off enforcement of their state’s plastic bag prohibition until January 1, which was set to go into effect April 22;
  • New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation agreed to delay any enforcement of their plastic bag ban until at least May 15;
  • In an emergency meeting, Charleston, South Carolina’s Council passed an emergency ordinance to suspend enforcement of a plastic bag ban 60 days;
  • Denver City Council is expected to delay the implementation of the city’s plastic and paper bag fee to January 1, 2021; and
  • Stamford, Connecticut’s Mayor’s announced the city’s plastic bag ban ordinance is suspended until further notice.
We need to take the necessary steps to ensure Pennsylvania’s own local governments are not implementing these bans on single-use containers, during this pandemic.  In doing so, my legislation will extend the July 1, 2020 prohibition of the General Assembly or local governmental bodies or agencies from enacting a law, rule, regulation or ordinance imposing a tax on or relating to the use, disposition, sale, prohibition or restriction of single-use plastics, reusable plastics, auxiliary containers, wrapping or polystyrene containers until December 31, 2021.
Please join me in sponsoring this important piece of public safety legislation.

Introduced as SB1159