Weavers Way Urges City Council to Pass Fee on Single-Use Grocery Bags


PHILADELPHIA, PA, May 21, 2015 — Weavers Way Co-op is urging City Council to support a proposed law to require retailers in Philadelphia to charge 5 cents for single-use bags.

Citing the “Ends,” or tenets, Weavers Way leaders noted in a May 20 letter that protecting and restoring the local environment is one of the guiding principles of the 40-year-old cooperatively run grocery operation.

“Millions of single-use bags, especially plastic ‘T-shirt’ bags, end up as litter. They clutter gutters, clog waterways and threaten wildlife. They also snarl trash and recycling machinery. . . . They degrade our shared urban landscape without providing significant value,” the letter said, in part. “Charging 5 cents for each bag will help consumers consider the true cost of using these ubiquitous throwaways, and encourage them to skip unneeded bags and adopt sustainable, non-disposable alternatives.” (Read the full letter here.)

Weavers Way joined environmental organizations such as Clean Water Action, the Clean Air Council and the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership in praising the measure, introduced April 23 by First District Councilman Mark Squilla. The bill targets both paper and plastic and would require merchants to charge 5 cents for single-use bags. Two cents would go to the city, and the merchant would keep the remaining 3 cents to offset costs for signage and compliance reporting. The bill includes exceptions for certain types of merchandise and allows merchants to opt out if they don’t supply bags at all. (Read the bill here.)

According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. retailers go through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually, at an estimated cost of $4 billion. The “T-shirt” bag, handed out virtually everywhere, from corner stores to Toys R Us, for everything from a pack of cigarettes to a 20-pack of diapers, often end up in the trash — and that’s the upgrade, with discarded bags decorating trees, choking sewers and entangling wildlife.

As reported in the May Weavers Way Shuttle, the Philadelphia Streets Department already requests that plastic bags be kept out of recycling because of the problems they cause at the processing facility. “It’s common practice for the materials recovery facilities to use an hour during each shift to unwrap plastic bags off of equipment,” said Philadelphia Recycling Director Phil Bresee.

Anecdotally, consumers are said to repurpose plastic grocery bags for their own trash, and charging for them might be a hardship for some. “But consumers are already paying the cost of the bags as retailers pass on the costs of doing business via pricing,” said Weavers Way Purchasing Manager Norman Weiss. “It’s actually very easy to switch to reusable bags. They aren’t heavy, they aren’t expensive, they’re easily collapsible and can be re-used hundreds or even thousands of times.”

Weavers Way has never offered free grocery bags, although paper shopping bags are available for purchase at 15 cents each. The Co-op started charging 2 cents for all plastic produce bags in the 1990s. (Cellulose or paper bags for bulk food items are free, as are the discarded boxes kept on hand for shoppers to use.) Weiss noted that nevertheless, in 2013-14, Weavers Way shoppers used about 39,900 large paper bags and about 228,000 plastic produce bags, with 34 percent of shopping trips consuming a plastic bag.

About Weavers Way: Founded as a buying club in 1973, “the Co-op” now has grocery stores in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, two health and wellness specialty shops and a pet supply store. Owned by its 5,400 member households, “the Co-op” emphasizes products that are healthy, sustainable and local, and supports fair prices, fair trade and fair treatment of workers. At Weavers Way, anyone can join and everyone can shop. For more information, visit www.weaversway.coop.