The City today announced that the ordinance on single-use plastic bags, originally passed by City Council in December 2019, will be implemented beginning July 1, 2021, extending the delay of implementation by another six months. There will also be a considerable education and warning period before full enforcement begins in order to provide businesses with ample time to prepare and comply with the law. Businesses are still encouraged to begin phasing out their plastic bag supply as soon as possible.

Implementation has been delayed due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the business community—particularly small businesses. The City will begin treating the law as going into effect on July 1, 2021. Businesses will be required to hang signage to inform customers of the ban by July 31, 2021. The prohibition of plastic bags will begin October 1, 2021, but to ensure businesses have ample time to comply with the law, from October 1, 2021 to April 1, 2022, the City will only issue warnings on failure to use compliant bags. After April 1, 2022, the City will fully enforce the ban.

We know the climate crisis and plastic pollution remain two very serious threats to our planet and society, even during the global pandemic. However, we realize that this law will only be successful if there is widespread messaging to our diverse business owners, effective enforcement, and most importantly, partnership among all stakeholders and communities.

We will get through this difficult time together, and when we do, we will still have our environment to protect. The City is working to make sure that our businesses rise from this challenging time stronger and fully supported in order to create a cleaner and more sustainable Philadelphia.

Updated Plastic Bag Ban Implementation Dates

July 1, 2021 Implementation begins.
July 31,  2021 Retail establishments are required to post conspicuous signage at all points of sale informing customers that single-use plastic bags and non-recycled content paper bags will no longer be provided by the establishment as of the date the prohibition begins.
October 1, 2021 Prohibition of single-use plastic bags and non-recycled content paper bags begins.
October 1, 2021 – April 1, 2022 Education and warning period; the City will only issue warnings for failure to use compliant bags.
April 1, 2022 The City will fully enforce the ban.

Plastic Bag Ban FAQs

Why ban plastic bags?

Philadelphians use about one billion plastic bags each year, which litter our streets, waterways, and commercial corridors. Plastic bags are not recyclable curbside and get caught in the equipment, which is dangerous for recycling center staff and costs the City money ($300,000 per year for 150 staff hours spent cleaning). Banning plastic bags will make our city cleaner, reduce waste, and save taxpayer dollars.

What is actually banned?

The legislation prohibits retail establishments from providing for carryout or delivery:

  • All single-use plastic bags. This includes bags created through a “blown film extrusion” process or that are less than 2.25 mils thick. The blown film extrusion process is the primary way that all plastic bags that use plastic film are created, regardless of the thickness of the plastic. Therefore, this legislation bans all bags we commonly refer to as single-use plastic bags, no matter their thickness.
  • Bags made from PLA (polylactic acid) or other bioplastics created through a blown film extrusion process
  • Any paper bag that does not contain at least 40 percent recycled content and does not meet the labeling criteria set in the legislation

What kinds of bags will still be allowed?

Retail establishments will still be permitted to provide:

Reusable bags:

  • Made of nylon, cotton, cloth, polyester, or another material that are specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuses
  • Made of plastic that are not created through blown film extrusion, are more than 2.25 mils thick, and are specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuses

Compliant paper bags, which are those that meet the following criteria:

  • Contain a minimum of 40 percent post-consumer recycled content
  • Contain no old growth fiber
  • Display the word “Recyclable” or “Recycled Content” in a highly visible manner and are labeled with the name of the manufacturer and the percentage of post-consumer recycled content of the bag in an easy-to-read font size

Which businesses does this effect?

The ban will affect all retail establishments of all sizes in Philadelphia that make bags available for carryout items (such as food, clothing, home goods, etc.) and/or for delivery. These businesses include establishments, indoor or outdoor, where food or other products are offered to the public for sale—including supermarkets, convenience stores, shops, service stations, department stores, clothing stores, restaurants, food trucks, farmers’ markets, and delivery services.

Are there any exemptions?

The following bags are exempt:

  • Dry cleaner bags
  • Bags sold in packages containing multiple bags intended for use as garbage bags or to contain pet waste or yard waste
  • Bags used inside a retail establishment by a customer to deliver perishable items to the point of sale (including bags used to package bulk items, meats or fish, unwrapped prepared foods, bakery goods, flowers, potted plants, or similar items)

What are the fines for non-compliance?

Between October 1, 2021 and April 1, 2022, businesses found to be using non-compliant bags will receive written warnings only. After April 1, 2022, the City will issue violation notices, which carry a minimum penalty of $75. Each violation of the ordinance is subject to a separate fine. If businesses repeatedly or egregiously violate the ordinance, the City may take them to court and ask the judge to impose additional penalties.

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