Lawmakers, PennEnvironment announce ‘Zero Waste PA’ package to address single-use plastics, litter and a ‘throwaway’ society

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HARRISBURG, April 10 – House lawmakers joined PennEnvironment today to announce a package of bills aimed at addressing single-use plastics, pervasive issues of litter and the various environmental harms caused by a “throwaway” society.

Legislation in the “Zero Waste PA” package works to address issues created by a disposable society including single-use plastics such as straws, plastic bags and Styrofoam takeout food containers, electronic waste, funding Pennsylvania’s recycling programs and more.

“We can no longer ignore the growing waste problem that is threatening our environment. My colleagues and I have introduced a package of bills that, together, address this problem from a number of angles,” said Rep. Tim Briggs, D-Montgomery. “By encouraging the use of more naturally biodegradable materials, addressing issues with the way we recycle, and finding ways to support environmentally friendly practices, we can help preserve our planet for future generations.”

“Every day, unwitting Pennsylvanians are barraged with products that we’re expected to purchase and use, and then throw away. Only, there is no ‘away,’” said PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur. “Instead, it ends up in landfills where it can cause water pollution, in incinerators that cause air pollution, or blowing around in our neighborhoods in the form of litter. Nothing we use for a few minutes should pollute our environment, neighborhoods, rivers and oceans for centuries to come.”  

The measures that would be addressed in the package include:

  • Prohibiting food establishments from using polystyrene containers to distribute prepared foods. (Rep. Tim Briggs)

  • Dissuading litterers and illegal dumpers by increasing the fines and penalties for those caught illegally throwing away their garbage. (Rep. Donna Bullock)

  • Prohibiting establishments from offering plastic straws except upon the customer’s request. (Rep. Mary Jo Daley)

  • Increasing the disposal fee for municipal waste landfills from $4 per ton to $8 per ton to help support important conservation and environmental protection programs. (Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler)

  • Increasing the recycling fee that landfill operators pay from $2 per ton to $5 per ton on waste received at their landfills, the first increase in 30 years. (Rep. Mary Isaacson)

  • Authorizing counties that have recycling programs to collect a recycling and waste management fee of up to $4 per ton, to be used to create and maintain new or existing recycling programs, programs to clean up illegal dumping sites or litter, and/or programs for alternative energy. (Rep. Patty Kim)

  • Significantly diverting organic waste from our landfills and incinerators and spurring a market for organic waste composting (Rep. Danielle Friel Otten)

  • Establishing a statewide cigarette filter upcycling initiative, where a 20-cent, partially reimbursed deposit on each pack of cigarettes sold in Pennsylvania would be used for collection centers and safe reuse. (Rep. Chris Rabb)

  • Ensuring that producers of plastic packaging take responsibility for the decisions they make by requiring that they cannot sell or distribute plastic packaging in Pennsylvania unless they are part of a recycling program to take it back. (Rep. Melissa Shusterman)

  • Providing for a fee of two cents on each non-reusable plastic bag used by purchasers of consumer goods at retail establishments grossing over $1 million annually to support recycling. (Rep. Brian Sims and Rep. Jared Solomon)

  • Creating a 5-cent beverage bottle and can deposit program in Pennsylvania. (Rep. Wendy Ullman)

  • Encouraging the use of reusable water bottles by requiring that newly constructed state buildings, as well as existing state buildings undergoing renovations to water and pipe infrastructure, install water bottle filling stations. (Rep. Perry Warren)

  • Addressing Pennsylvania’s failing electronic waste recycling law by taking from best practices implemented in other states to make Pennsylvania’s law effective. (Rep. Mike Zabel)

In the coming months, the lawmakers will be building co-sponsorship support for these measures and holding local events in their districts related to the package.


ATTENTION EDITORS: Below, find additional quotes from the lawmakers on the package and their bills.

Bucks County

“Plastic water bottles take hundreds of years to decompose, and sadly the majority of them don’t even end up getting recycled. My legislation would be a step toward reducing single-use plastics in Pennsylvania and keeping them out of our landfills, waterways and outdoor areas,” said Rep. Perry Warren, D-Bucks.

“The fact that beverage containers alone make up about half of all litter shows that we need to do more to promote recycling in Pennsylvania. My legislation will support and reward recycling which will ultimately reduce waste throughout Pennsylvania and keep our outdoor areas beautiful and free from litter,” said Rep. Wendy Ullman, D-Bucks.

Chester County

“Non-recyclable plastic waste is a mounting environmental crisis in Pennsylvania. My legislation would ensure that sellers and distributors of plastic packaging are part of a recycling program, or they will not be permitted to sell or distribute plastic packaging in the commonwealth,” said Rep. Melissa Shusterman, D-Chester/Montgomery.

“I am excited to introduce legislation with the goal of diverting organic waste from our landfills and incinerators. Significant waste reduction in our landfills and disposal cost savings throughout our communities will benefit both our economy and our environment by creating a market for organic waste composting and helping to reduce environmental harms to our commonwealth. I am proud to support these bills, which are a step in the right direction for Pennsylvania’s environmental future,” said Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, D-Chester.

Dauphin County

“The rising costs of recycling need to be addressed. My legislation would remedy this problem by authorizing counties to collect a recycling and waste management fee, which would be used to support recycling programs,” said Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin.

Delaware County

“Electronic waste is a growing problem that needs to be addressed,” said Rep. Mike Zabel, D-Delaware. “My legislation will reform and modernize electronic waste recycling, and make Pennsylvania a national leader on this issue.”

Montgomery County

“The goal of this legislation is to move from a throw-away society to one focused on sustainability,” said Rep. Mary Jo Daley, D-Montgomery.


“Illegal dumping is a serious problem in the City of Philadelphia and across the Commonwealth,” said Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Phila. “Low fines and lack of enforcement are not a deterrent, and vulnerable communities continue to be dumped on. My legislation increases the fines for illegal dumping and sends a strong message to those who disrespect our communities, our highways, forests and park lands across the state: Don’t dump on us.”

“Pennsylvania imports a huge amount of solid waste from New Jersey and New York. The transportation, handling and disposal of this enormous amount of waste into our state has a negative impact on Pennsylvania residents and our natural resources,” said Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila. “I am committed to safeguarding the health and safety of residents and making sure our natural resources are protected.” 

“The fee paid by landfill operators on waste received at their landfills was set 30 years ago and hasn’t changed since,” said Rep. Mary Isaacson, D-Phila. “But in those three decades, the costs associated with recycling planning and processing by municipalities has gone up, and communities across the state are struggling to keep up. More and more recyclable items are being sent to incinerators and landfills. The increase I am proposing is just one dollar per decade, a fair price worth paying to ensure Pennsylvanians are provided with proper recycling programs and services.””Cigarette litter is among the most toxic of all commonly littered items, containing a multitude of chemicals that leach into our soil and water and are harmful to all living things,” said Rep. Chris Rabb, D-Phila. “A well-planned deposit program would create a system where enterprises with proven capacity could upcycle them for safe and innovative use. This simple action would have a profound effect on our environment and leave our planet in better condition for future generations.”

“Plastic bags are spending a full millennium in landfills, blowing around our streets, getting caught in our street trees, clogging our inlets and floating around in the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers in perpetuity,” said Rep. Brian Sims, D-Phila. “It’s past time we find a way to move on from using non-biodegradable plastic bags. Until we do, a modest fee of two cents on each plastic bag given out to consumers at retail establishments would serve as a reminder for everyone to think twice before taking a bag and would offer a needed revenue source for Pennsylvania’s recycling programs.”  

“Walk through parts of Philadelphia and you will find yourself wading through trash and litter,” said Rep. Jared Solomon, D-Phila. “Through the efforts put forth in this package of bills, we can eradicate this waste at the source and make our neighborhoods cleaner and safer for all.”