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Plastic bags: A debate today on Radio Times

Guests will include a plastic bag manufacturer and recycler, and an advocate for a plastic bag fee and

What to do about plastic bags.....

Charge a fee? Encourage more recycling? Ban them? Keep things as they are?

If you're interested in the issue, tune in to WHYY-FM at 11 a.m. today, for a thorough discussion on Radio Times.

Guests will include Logan Welde of the Clean Air Council, who has been working with green blogger Julie Hancher. Both have been advocating for a fee -- they call it an "upfront bag fee" because they say grocers embed the cost of all the single-use plastic bags in the cost of the grocers. See what they've been up to recently by visiting Hancher's Green Philly blog.

Also on the the show will be Anna Quinn, who will talk about the Philadelphia Farmer's Market efforts to discourage the use of plastic bags -- by handing out 800 donated reusable bags.

Below are two letters to city council. The first is from Welde and Hancher, the second from Rozenski.


Dear City Council,

I am writing to address an important issue that affects Philadelphians of various socioeconomic levels, ethnicities and backgrounds: Plastic bags.

Plastic bags are durable, waterproof & can carry 1,000 times their own weight. You will hear many people say that plastic bags are a convenient, necessary part of modern life. This may have been the case when they were first introduced in grocery checkout lines in 1976. But in the last 37 years, we have learned this convenience comes with a dire price.

Take a walk down any Philadelphia street – plastic bags litter the streets, get caught in trees and clog storm water drains.

Plastic bags will never decompose. They photodegrade instead of biodegrade, which means they break into tiny, tiny pieces and stay in our atmosphere forever. Fish ingest these plastic fragments, mistaking them for plankton. That fish you just ate for dinner? It comes with a side of plastic. Appetizing, right?

Philadelphia is not next to an ocean, but the Delaware River flows into the Delaware Bay, where it enters the Atlantic Ocean. When plastic bags get caught in our sewer drains and rivers they are either removed using taxpayer dollars, or continue their course into the Atlantic Ocean.

Guess what gets caught in the water skimmers and in the recycling centers, although they are not allowed in single stream recycling by city law. You guessed it: plastic bags.

You may be aware that some grocery stores offer plastic bag 'recycling' programs. However, only one to four percent of plastic bags are captured in these recycling programs. And, it does not reduce the number of plastic bags that each Philadelphian uses each year: over 335/person on average. That adds up to 518 million plastic bags total in Philadelphia alone.

What will the plastic bag program do for Philadelphia? Save millions of plastic bags from streets, waterways and landfills. Save taxpayers money ($.17 per plastic bag) from cleaning the bags from our waterways and streets. Cut down on grocery and shopping prices. Think those plastic bags are free at the checkout counter? While many Philadelphians argue that free plastic bags received at grocery stores can be used for domestic purposes, each shopper still pays for plastic bags because retailers embed the cost in our supermarket bills.

Mayor Nutter boldly declared in 2008 that he wants Philadelphia to be the greenest city in America. However, single-use bag legislation was introduced in 2007 and 2009 and failed both times due to industry lobbyists. Without legislators taking bold actions, it won't happen. Will City Council finally take action in 2013?

On an even more important note, with plastic bag legislation we can allocate the money collected through single-use bag fees to help fund the Philadelphia Public School System. The program can also provide free or cheap reusable bags to those who need them.

We need to take action now to pave a thriving city for our future Philadelphians. I'm urging you, City Council, to take action and implement plastic bag legislation, like many of your constituents.


Julie M. Hancher, Founder & President, Green Philly Blog

Logan Welde, Staff Attorney, Clean Air Council


Dear Councilmembers:

Hilex Poly has produced one of the most important innovations in recycling in recent memory: the ability to reduce the need for virgin material through closed-loop recycling. The companies within the