Restaurants lagging with plastic bag ban compliance, survey shows

It’s been roughly five months since Pittsburgh’s ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect, and the majority of businesses are currently complying, according to a survey.

PennEnvironment Advocate Zachary Barber told Channel 11 during a press conference on Tuesday that staff members and volunteers recently surveyed 50 random businesses across a variety of neighborhoods in the city.

“What we found should give Pittsburghers reason for optimism,” Barber said.

More than 80%, generally, were compliant. Barber stated that 93% of retail stores, including grocers, convenience shops, clothing stores, and electronics businesses, were plastic-free. When it came to restaurants, however, about 67% were compliant.

“Unfortunately, the news was not quite so strong at the city’s restaurants, which are lagging far behind,” Barber said. “Only 15 of 22 restaurants were not giving out plastic, and especially common were plastic bags for delivery.”

Critics of the city’s ban have claimed that switching to alternative bags is costly for small businesses. The issue came up most recently when Allegheny County officials began discussing expanding the ban.

>> Allegheny County Council discusses implementing plastic bag ban

Natalie Ahwesh, Executive Director of Humane Action Pittsburgh, spoke during the press conference, offering to lend resources.

“We’re heartened to witness so many businesses in Pittsburgh that are embracing this pivotal legislation and we extend an open invitation for collaboration,” Ahwesh said.

Meanwhile, Barber made several recommendations for the city in moving forward, including having staff offer continued education to local businesses on the law, and how to best become compliant. The organization further recommends greater enforcement, particularly for restaurants, and suggests that compliant restaurants could be put in touch with noncompliant eateries to offer guidance.

Currently, the city offers a warning to noncompliant businesses. From there, fines are issued and can increase for multiple violations.

The speakers stressed how single-use plastic bags endanger wildlife as well as humans, by polluting the environment. They stated that very rarely are single-use plastic bags adequately recycled.

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