Tag Archives: West Chester

Single Use Plastics

from West Chester Borough Sustainability Advisory Committee

West Chester Borough is taking steps to curb single-use plastic waste. In July 2019 Borough Council approved an ordinance banning single use plastic bags and straws in West Chester, effective July 2nd 2020.

  • September 2018 – local students ask Council to address single use plastic bags and straws  
  • July 2019 – Ordinance written and public hearing held. Council votes to approve ordinance
  • July 2020 – Enforcement begins July 2nd

Click here to read West Chester’s Single Use Plastic ordinance.

What do businesses need to know? 

  • As of July 2nd 2020 distribution of plastic bags and straws will be prohibited within the Borough
  • Any bag distributed to customers must include 40% recycled content and be recyclable in the Borough. This is considered a “compliant bag”
  • Businesses are required to charge 10 cents per compliant bag distributed to customers, and disclose this fee on the sales receipt
  • Any business may request a year-long exemption for review by the Borough’s Sustainability Advisory Committee
  • Businesses observed to be violating the ordinance will receive a written warning, then a $100, $200, and $500 fine for successive violations in a single 12-month period.

West Chester stands up to the state by passing a single-use plastic bag and straw ban

In late June, PA Governor Wolf signed a state budget to which the General Assembly added an amendment that blocks municipalities from passing plastic bans. But West Chester became the first municipality to stand up against this legislation by passing a ban anyway — because the plastic crisis can’t wait any longer.

From “West Chester Passes Ban of Single-Use Plastic Bags and Straws,” by Justin Heinze, West Chester Patch, 7/19/10:

WEST CHESTER, PA — Before a packed crowd at borough hall Wednesday night, West Chester made history, voting to become the latest Pennsylvania municipality to pass a ban on single-use plastic bags and straws. It comes as local governments spar with the conservative state legislature that has sought to make such ordinances illegal.

West Chester’s borough council voted 4-3 to approve the ordinance. The vote comes less than a year after nearby Narberth became the first municipality in all of Pennsylvania to pass a similar measure. And it passed despite concerns expressed by council members early in the meeting that the measure defied state law.

“It is incumbent upon council to resist and if you’re going to resist, resist completely,” State Sen. Andy Dinniman (D-Chester) told the gathering. “This is a clear overreach of local control.” …

Photo from Rep. Danielle Friel Otten on Instagram.

And the crowd cheers from West Chester’s Plastics Bag Ban instigators for West Chester Friends School and Youth Uprising.

Please read the full article HERE at Patch.com.

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.

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.

Rain gardens / green infrastructure / Stream Protection Fee

Green infrastructure lessens adverse environmental impacts through features like rain garden, which intercept water flowing down a street, filter out impurities, and let the water drain slowly into the underlying aquifer. Rain gardens also enhance the beauty of streetscapes, slow down traffic , and encourage pedestrians to enjoy walking.

Our society has traditionally had a throw-away mentality: use it, toss it and put it out of mind. Recycling and waste reduction aim to break that destructive and contaminating cycle. The same applies to rain gardens, which break the cycle of wasting rain water.

Rain running through streets picks up sediments and chemicals from trash, cigarette butts, pet waste, drippings from car engines, bits of vehicle tires, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, leaves, other organic matter, and in winter highly damaging road salt. Street water eventually runs into streams, either directly or through storm drains.

Heavy flows erode stream banks; contaminants kill fish, amphibians, and insect larvae as well as making life difficult for communities that use water downstream for drinking.

Federal and state regulations require many communities to reduce pollutants; and besides, who these days wants to be worsening erosion and water contamination? West Chester Borough approved a stream protection fee after the state adopted enabling legislation in 2015.

Because all properties (and the sidewalks and streets next to them) produce runoff from rain and snow, all properties are subject to this fee, as the fairest way to repair and maintain the Borough’s storm water infrastructure, which at 100 years old has serious leaks and blockages.

Each property is assessed in proportion to its area that water cannot penetrate, such as roofs, parking areas, patios. Credits are available for certain measures that reduce runoff into the street, such as rain gardens, downspout disconnection, holding basins, and permeable paving.

Fees go into a separate fund used only for mitigating the storm water impact on streams. Unlike taxes, non-profits and government entities, including the Borough itself, pay their fair share.

With or without a fee, all residents and property owners should help to reduce runoff from properties and keep the streets clean!

This Information is from the West Chester Green Team. For official Borough information see here. See also the handout prepared by the Stormwater Assessment Advisory Committee for the May 4, 2016, hearing on West Chester’s future Stormwater Protection Fee (download here: Stream Protection fee overview).

Above: rain garden, corner of W. Nields and S. Everhart streets, West Chester. The sign says: “Better Roads / Cleaner Streams / Improving water quality, one road segment at a time! / This Environmentally Sensitive Road Maintenance Project has been funded by Chester County Conservation and your Municipality.”

Below: rain garden across the street on the same corner. Water runs in through the curb opening and over the stones into the basin part of the rain garden, where it stands and slowly seeps into the  ground.