Businesses, customers divided on proposed plastic bag ban

Philadelphia City Council could vote on the bill as early as Thursday. It would take effect 90 days after its signing.

New York Halal Gyro uses plastic bags to package food on 13th Street near Norris on Nov. 11. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple students, business owners and residents have mixed opinions on a bill banning plastic bags being considered by Philadelphia City Council.

If signed into law, the bill, put forth by First District Councilman Mark Squilla, would prohibit all retail businesses in Philadelphia from providing single-use plastic bags or non-recyclable paper bags to customers. The measure would take effect 90 days after the bill’s signing.

City Council could vote as early as Thursday.

Squilla introduced the first version of the bill in May. City Council’s Committee on Licenses and Inspections removed a provision that would have added a 15-cent fee for paper bags and thicker plastic bags, WHYY reported.

Squilla said he was inspired after seeing how trash and debris were both an eyesore and an environmental problem in the city. 

“The goal is for people to become a reusable society instead of a disposable society,” he added.

U.S. citizens use more than 380 billion lightweight plastic bags each year, requiring a total of more than 12 million barrels of oil, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. 

Aslam Khan, who operates New York Halal Gyro on 13th Street near Norris, said he tries to charge the customer less, and because paper bags are more expensive than plastic ones, City Council’s proposed ban would affect him.

“For now, I don’t know how much it’s going to [cost], but if they ban plastic, we’ll have to,” he added.

Squilla pushed back against criticism that his policy could hurt small businesses.

“Right now, the bill just bans plastics,” he said. “They can give out papers for free.”

Sue Wilcox, the secretary of Cousin’s Supermarket, a local chain of grocery stores with a location on 5th Street near Berks, wrote in an email to The Temple News that the store experimented with giving away reusable bags to their customers but found that most did not reuse them.

“So to keep our customers happy we prefer to keep it the way it is and supply them with the plastic bags,” Wilcox wrote.

A representative from the Fresh Grocer on Broad Street near Oxford could not be immediately reached for comment.

Kevin Desesso, the assistant store manager at 7-Eleven on Liacouras Walk near Pollett, favors the ban, he said. 

“I don’t think it would affect the business, just help the environment,” he added. “I try to lean toward not handing [customers] a bag.”

The bill could be passed during the current legislative session, Squilla said, but he has a lot of work to do to ensure this. 

“It’s not a slam dunk, and it will be a challenge,” he added. “If we don’t pass it by the end of the year, we have to start over.”

“I support the legislation and plan to vote for it because of the negative environmental impact of these plastic bags,” Councilman At-Large William Greenlee told The Temple News.

City Council President Darrell Clarke, whose district encompasses much of Main Campus, did not respond to a request for comment.

Rasheda Lockett, who shops at the Fresh Grocer on Broad Street near Oxford, said she isn’t sure what to think about the ban. 

“It depends on why they wanted to ban it,” said Lockett, who lives on Spring Garden Street near Ridge Avenue. “I guess I wouldn’t be against it. As far as trash, it will help with that.”

Andy Patterson, a senior musical theater major, said the ban is a good idea. 

“I think that it’s an easy way to curb undiscarded waste,” he said. “Reusable bags are really cheap. It isn’t crazy to ask stores to buy them. A lot of people are conscious of the environment.”

Michael Glynn, a freshman actuarial science major, said he does not support the ban because he reuses plastic bags.

“I wouldn’t feel like paying,” Glynn said. “Environmentally, it would make a big difference. You see some rolling down the street, but in everyday life, it would make little change.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly named Khan’s halal cart on 13th Street near Norris. It is named New York Halal Gyro.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.