Prepared statement by Prof. Ashlie B. Delshad for the Plastics Ordinance hearing, West Chester, 7/17/19… and more info

Borough Council approved the ordinance at an exciting and even dramatic hearing! Many thanks to the huge number of citizens who turned out to support the ordinance! Download the text of the ordinance here: https://wcgreenteam.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/plastic-bag-and-straw-ordinance-wc-for-7-17-19.pdf. One change was made: the effective date was moved from January 1 to July 2, 2020 (the day after the reports stipulated by the state government’s would-be delaying action are due). See background and the summary and text in which the General Assembly tried to block the ordinance in our post. “Harrisburg vs. West Chester.” Although Professor Delshad did not get a chance to be among those who spoke at the hearing, we are posting her eloquent prepared statement as one more piece of evidence why the ordinance needed to be passed:

In 2015, 73% of West Chester voters cast their ballots in favor of our Community Bill of Rights, which includes the following language:

“We the people of West Chester Borough, Pennsylvania, find that our current system of government fails to recognize our self-governing authority because corporations may assert their “rights” to override our laws; our local government and elected representatives can be preempted by the state or federal government even when our elected representatives act to protect our community’s health, safety, and welfare; and our local government is banned from adopting and enforcing laws that have not been authorized by the state…

“We the people of West Chester Borough, Pennsylvania, hereby declare that our current system of local government is illegitimately limited by the state and that we adopt this law to create a new system of local governance that recognizes our self-governing authority while securing and protecting our rights.”

As a nation, we are behind the rest of the world with 32 countries having already banned single-use plastic bags. Leadership on this issue will not come from the federal level, and PA seems to be moving in the direction of the 13 other states (Idaho, Arizona, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas) which have prohibited municipalities from banning plastic bags. Municipalities are the ones leading when it comes to many progressive environmental issues including bag bans. Many eyes are on West Chester at this moment; we are at a critical juncture where we can choose to be leaders, we can choose to defy the corporate interests that snuck this moratorium into the state budget, we can choose to move forward according to the spirit and language in our Community Bill of Rights.

We do not know what will happen after the current one-year state level moratorium on bag bans expires, but if we lead the fight to tell the state legislature this moratorium is unacceptable by enacting our proposed plastic bag and straw ban as it is currently written, we stand a much greater chance of preventing a permanent state level prohibition than if we stand idly by and let this undermine our community’s commitment to progress.

The large crowd at the hearing, from Mayor Dianne Herrin’s Facebook page.
See also “Borough Council Votes to Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags and Straws” on the web site of Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19), who spoke strongly in favor of the ordinance.
See the video of the hearing here.

West Chester Green Team’s first annual organic garden tour

On Saturday, June 29th, about 100 West Chester residents toured organic gardens in the WC borough. Gardens that were toured showcased vegetables, flowers, rain gardens, tower gardens, and much more. The goal of the tour was to educate residents about the many different types of gardens you can have, even in a small space.

A popular attraction of the tour was Councilwoman Denise Polk’s backyard. Although Polk only has less than one-tenth of an acre, the space boasts more than 50 different plantings, in addition to a honey bee house. Polk suggests eating veggies fresh off the vine, and keeping chemical use to a minimum or not at all. (Photo by Bill Rettew: “Checking out Councilwoman Denise Polk’s backyard organic garden”)

In total there were 10 stops along the tour, with a site in each ward of the borough. Tour goers flocked to gardens in backyards, in addition to stops at West Chester University and the Melton Center.

Margaret Hudgings is an active West Chester Green Team leader, and she helped to organize the event. She was excited to see that a main goal of the tour had been accomplished; “The tour shows people that you can have a fantastic garden even if you have a small yard.”

West Chester Green Team hopes to run this tour again next year, with some improvements and new gardens featured.

For more details and photos from the tour, please visit “West Chester Green Team shines spotlight on local organic gardens” by Bill Rettew in the Daily Local News.

Christiane Torres’s garden

Home Depot, Lowe’s, and more remove harmful phthalates from flooring products



Success! – Home improvement retailers follow through on commitments to remove phthalates from flooring. The environmental organization Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families (SCHF) celebrates this recent win in the reduction of phthalate use in home remodeling products. In 2015, SCHF secured commitments from home remodeling stores Home Depot, Lowe’s, Lumber Liquidators, and Menards to eliminate added phthalates from flooring. But first – what are phthalates and why are we concerned about them?

Phthalates are a class of chemical compounds commonly used in home flooring, along with plastic containers, cosmetics, and other personal care products. Phthalates are so widely used that they have made their way into our bodies. Once phthalates are inside the body, they break down into metabolites and pass through. The CDC and FDA have not said outright that these chemicals are harmful to us, although many are concerned that prolonged exposure may cause adverse health effects.

This is why SCHF started a collaboration with the Ecology Center, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, and Healthy Building Network, to reduce phthalates in popular home remodeling products. Tile samples recently taken from Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Lumber Liquidators, show no measurable amounts of phthalates – that’s great!

Nowadays, you can’t escape manufactured chemicals – they surround us everywhere we go, they’re in our homes, our food and water, and ultimately in our own bodies. So let’s applaud these stores that are reducing their contribution of chemicals to the environment! Please see SCHF’s full article and visit their site to learn more about minimizing your exposure to chemicals.

Harrisburg vs. West Chester

Please come to the West Chester hearing at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 17, at Borough Hall, 401 E. Gay. St.! Be there no matter what!

Just when West Chester Borough Council was poised to pass a ban on single-use plastic bags and straws, a state legislator (to help a friend who has a plastics bag factory–yes, shameless!) snuck this prohibition into the state Budget bill, as summarized:

Summary: Amendment 2588 to SB712, Section 1706-E: Reports to General Assembly.

1) The Independent Fiscal Office shall evaluate the economic impact to the Commonwealth, its industry partners and consumers regulation impacting single use plastics and submit a full report of its findings to the General Assembly no later than July 1, 2020 [n.b. changed from December 31].

2) The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee shall evaluate the environmental impact and any impact upon residents of this Commonwealth from any regulation impacting single-use plastics and submit a full report of its findings to the General Assembly no later than July 1, 2020 [n.b. changed from December 31].

3) Prohibition.–Until such time as the Independent Fiscal Office and the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee submit the reports a local governmental body may not enact an ordinance imposing a tax on or relating to the use, prohibition or restriction of single-use plastics

So, one more issue for the 2020 election: will candidates agree to prefer the needs of the environment and citizens over the profits of the plastic bag industry?

Will the state reports, an obvious delaying tactic, just happen to forget the economic impact of communities having to clean up and dispose of myriad plastic throwaways?

Will West Chester Borough, despite the state’s opposition in this and other matters, still find a way to “to provide for the health, safety and well-being of Borough citizens” (as is its duty per the Borough’s Home Rule Charter, section 102)?

Here is the full wording of the amendment that became Section 1706-E of SB712, the 2019-20 state budget. Note that The General Assembly has so little regard for itself that it purports to prohibit even itself from taxing or regulating plastics for the next year!

SECTION 1706-E. REPORTS TO GENERAL ASSEMBLY.

A) INDEPENDENT FISCAL OFFICE.–THE INDEPENDENT FISCAL
OFFICE SHALL EVALUATE THE ECONOMIC IMPACT TO THE COMMONWEALTH,
ITS INDUSTRY PARTNERS AND CONSUMERS FOR ANY REGULATION IMPACTING
SINGLE-USE PLASTICS, REUSABLE PLASTICS, AUXILIARY CONTAINERS,
WRAPPINGS OR POLYSTYRENE CONTAINERS AND SUBMIT A FULL REPORT OF
ITS FINDINGS TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY NO LATER THAN JULY 1, 2020.

(B) LEGISLATIVE BUDGET AND FINANCE COMMITTEE.–THE
LEGISLATIVE BUDGET AND FINANCE COMMITTEE SHALL EVALUATE THE
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT AND ANY IMPACT UPON RESIDENTS OF THIS
COMMONWEALTH FROM ANY REGULATION IMPACTING SINGLE-USE PLASTICS,
REUSABLE PLASTICS, AUXILIARY CONTAINERS, WRAPPINGS OR
POLYSTYRENE CONTAINERS AND SUBMIT A FULL REPORT OF ITS FINDINGS
TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY NO LATER THAN JULY 1, 2020.

(C) PROHIBITION.–UNTIL SUCH TIME AS THE INDEPENDENT FISCAL
OFFICE AND THE LEGISLATIVE BUDGET AND FINANCE COMMITTEE SUBMIT
THE REPORTS REQUIRED UNDER SUBSECTIONS (A) AND (B),
RESPECTIVELY, THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OR A LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL BODY
OR AGENCY MAY NOT ENACT 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, WRAPPINGS OR POLYSTYRENE
CONTAINERS.

Green Team takes kids to Longwood

On July 2, the West Chester Green Team took a busload of kids from West Chester’s Little Faces Day Care on an outing to Longwood Gardens. Here are some photos of the very successful event, part of our effort to familiarize local residents, including kids, more with the world of nature and especially plants (whether edible or not).

“Recycling is supposed to be the last resort” – Why our recycling system is broken

The US Recycling System Is Garbage (Sierra Magazine, 6/26/19, by Edward Humes) details the many issues in the US’s current recycling system. Most of what you put in the bin doesn’t actually get recycled, and recycling is now coming as a cost to our economy – and it’s all because China stopped accepting our dirty plastics.

Since about 1992, the US has been selling our plastic waste to Asia, namely China, because it is easier and less costly than processing it here. Then, the plastic would be processed under lax environmental conditions, along with much of it being dumped into rivers.

Prior to this offshoring, the US actually had a fairly healthy recycling system. In the ’70s and ’80s, US consumers would clean their recyclables and separate the materials. After we started shipping away this waste, the system deteriorated, as we no longer had to deal with the problem. Nowadays, consumers will throw anything into the recycling bin – from dirty food containers to old furniture.

In 2018, China finally banned imports of dirty foreign garbage. As part of an effort to reduce pollution, they decided to no longer accept poor-quality recyclables from other countries. As a result, this trash instead starting piling up at US ports. And since we had no machinery or infrastructure to deal with it – it lead to what was called a ‘national recycling crisis’.

However, perhaps looking at it as a crisis is all wrong. Steve Alexander, president of the Association of Plastic Recyclers, urges that ” . . . (this) has given us the opportunity to begin investing in the infrastructure we need in order to do it better.”

David Allaway of the Department of Environmental Quality says that instead of blaming China, “we need to recycle better and recycle smarter, which means recycling only when the positive environmental impacts outweigh the negative.” And at the moment, we aren’t achieving that. For instance, Stamford, Connecticut, went from earning $95,000 from its recyclables in 2017 to paying $700,000 in 2018 to get rid of them. Prince George’s County, Maryland, went from earning $750,000 to losing $2.7 million.

So what can you do as a consumer? Martin Bourque from Berkeley’s Ecology Center reminds us that “recycling is supposed to be the last resort after reduction and reuse.” This means you should try to cut back your use of single-use materials as much as possible. And when you do buy something, reuse it as many times as you can. The less that is making it into the bin, the better.

Private First Class Travis Dodson, an aircraft mechanic with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, and a volunteer at the base recycling center, separates contaminated material from the daily 5-ton load of trash and recyclables on a conveyor belt to effectively produce non-contaminated reusable products. Pendleton officials are asking base occupants to be aware of good recycling habits in order for its benefits to be truly effective.

The recycling system in the US may be in disrepair, but that does not mean you should stop trying. Every day you can reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills and in our oceans. For more information, please see the full article The US Recycling System Is Garbage from Sierra Club Magazine. If you would like to be involved in local waste reduction efforts, please follow our Facebook page to see upcoming events.

New Maps Show How Groundwater Affects Lakes and Rivers

100 years of pumping has reduced stream flows by 50 percent in some areas

by Jason Daley, Sierra magazine, 7/2/19

[N.b.: this is the bottom line of our earlier article “Rain gardens / green infrastructure / Stream Protection Fee“: Our community, county and country need to see that water runoff goes back into the aquifer. Chester County does not have a problem right now, due to lots of rainfall; see much interesting data at Chester County Water Resources Authority. But the point is to be ready for any future droughts by getting our water recharging systems in place, as well as reducing excess runoff and toxic matter flowing into streams. And our municipalities do rely on the aquifer for water for human use, whether directly by pumping or indirectly by drawing water from streams.]

Photo by John_Brueske/iStock

On the surface, it’s pretty obvious how humans have altered lakes and rivers over the past century; dams have turned rivers into strings of reservoirs, the Mississippi River is more or less a concrete-lined sluice, and artificial ponds have proliferated by the thousands. Less apparent, but perhaps just as important, is how tapping into the groundwater systems that underlie the United States has impacted those streams and lakes as well. Now, a new detailed study in the journal Science Advances shows how much groundwater pumping has impacted those water bodies, in some cases reducing their flows by half. …

read more at Sierra magazine