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State House GOP: Dem's anti-littering bottle bill has chance

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch
Pennsylvania Capitol building
(Photo by Liz Evans Scolforo)

A 5-cent bottle deposit and stiffer fines for littering aren't out of the question in Pennsylvania, according to a spokesman for Republican state House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler.

The "bottle bill" and hefty littering fines are among a sweeping 13-bill environmental package House Democrats unveiled April 10, dubbed Zero Waste PA.

"There are certainly some ideas that our leaders and our members are going to be excited to work on," said House GOP spokesman Mike Straub.

The package includes proposals that would ban plastic straws and polystyrene food containers and impose fees on plastic shopping bags.

Thirteen different House Democrats intend to sponsor one of the bills in the package. 

"I think that single-use plastics are something that we should all be aware of using and looking for ways to limit our use," said Democratic Rep. Mary Jo Daley of Montgomery County, who intends to sponsor the plastic straw bill.

There isn't much support in the GOP caucus for putting new mandates on businesses, Straub said.

"While the intent is noble, obviously, to try to do things in the best interests of the environment, it can’t come at a burden passed along to those business owners," he said.

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Daley's bill would prohibit restaurants and other establishments from offering plastic straws to customers unless a customer were to request one.

She acknowledged that as a Democrat, she's used to introducing legislation that doesn't get much attention in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile to bring attention to the issue, she said.

"Sometimes bills don’t get passed the first time around, but they pick up some traction over time," she said.

Another bill that would ban restaurants from using polystyrene food containers is sponsored by Rep. Tim Briggs of Montgomery County. It's the only bill within the package that's been officially introduced in the House.

Ten states have bottle deposit programs, some in place for decades. In some of those states, the grocery industry has pushed for the repeal of the anti-littering legislation, labeling its management onerous.

York County's state representatives were not available to comment.