EDITORIAL: Zero Waste PA give GOP a chance to return to roots

York Dispatch Editorial Board
Parent liaison Destiney Boldizar, right, holds a bag out so her son, Dylan Boldizar, 8, can place trash in it as Edgar Fahs Smith STEAM Academy begins its Spring Neighborhood Cleanup at Penn Park in York City, Saturday, March 30, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Call us tree huggers.

We're the ones who rinse off cans before putting them in the recycling bin, encourage pollinators to frequent our yards and take reusable bags to the grocery store.

So it should be no surprise that we're supporting the Zero Waste PA bills that Democrats are introducing in the state Legislature.

The 13-bill package would help cut back on single-use plastics and fund recycling programs around the state. Here are the initiatives:

  • Prohibit polystyrene takeout food containers;
  • Increase fines and penalties for littering;
  • Stop restaurants from giving out plastic straws unless the customer requests one;
  • Increase the disposal fee for municipal waste landfills from $4 per ton to $8 per ton to support environmental programs;
  • Increase the recycling fee that landfill operators pay on waste received at landfills from $2 per ton to $5 per ton;
  • Let counties with recycling program to collect a fee of up to $4 per ton;
  • Create a market for organic waste composting;
  • Establish a 20-cent deposit on each pack of cigarettes to collect and reuse cigarette filters;
  • Require producers of plastic packaging to be part of a recycling program to take it back;
  • Allow a 2-cent fee for each nonresuable plastic bag used by consumers at retailers grossing more than $1 million annually;
  • Create a 5-cent deposit program for beverage bottles and cans;
  • Require water bottle filling stations in new and renovated state buildings;
  • Look at other states with effective electronic recycling programs and implement their best practices in Pennsylvania.

It's an ambitious list that addresses a lot of problems, including littering. A lot of these ideas would bring back items that used to be common — who remembers taking glass bottles back to collect deposits, or using paper straws? Others would increase the use of reusable bags and water bottles, which are already very popular. 

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

And for once, the Republicans in the Legislature might actually let some of these bills move along.

"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.

That's a refreshing attitude. It's bad that it's also a surprising attitude.

Conservatives used to, you know, conserve. They were tight with money, but they also wanted to make sure that we conserved our natural resources. National parks were born during Theodore Roosevelt's administration. Richard Nixon presided over the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Somehow today's conservatives have, in many cases, forgotten that aspect of their heritage in the service of businesses. Too many times, financial interests outweigh the environmental costs.

Here are 13 chances for the Republicans to get back to their true conservative roots, to lean to the side of goods that will last rather than ones that are used once and discarded. Here's hoping they will use this opportunity.

They don't have to hug any trees. They just have to cut back on the plastic trash gathered around the roots.