PHILADELPHIA — The City of Philadelphia today announced resources available as the city prepares for implementation of the ban on single-use plastic bags. The ban, which was originally passed by City Council in December 2019, will be implemented beginning July 1, 2021. This follows a period of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the ban will be implemented beginning July 1, there will be a considerable nine-month awareness, 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 encouraged to begin phasing out their plastic bag supply and post signage notifying customers of the change as soon as possible.
Philadelphia City Council passed the Single-use Plastic Bag Ban as a major advancement toward cleaning up Philadelphia’s streets and waterways, and reducing plastic waste. After being delayed due to the City’s response to COVID-19, the legislation will now be implemented on July 1, 2021. While businesses will be required to hang signage to inform customers of the ban by August 1, 2021, the prohibition of plastic bags will not begin until October 1, 2021. 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 to businesses that are not in compliance; after April 1, 2022, the City will begin to fully enforce the ban.
“Even in the wake of recovery from a global pandemic, the climate crisis and plastic pollution remain two very serious threats to our planet and society,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Philadelphia is committed to continuing to advance our environmental goals, and while the ban on single-use plastic bags will go into effect later than we originally anticipated, we believe this timeline will help increase compliance. By building out an extended education and warning period, the City will be better able to ensure widespread awareness of the law to our diverse business owners and to residents and consumers.”
To assist businesses through this transition, the City is providing various resources during the nine-month education and warning period, all of which are available on a new webpage at phila.gov/plastic-bag-ban. Resources available include signage—in multiple languages—that businesses can download, print, and hang at points of sale as well as a flyer that answers frequently asked questions about the ban. A list of vendors that carry reusable or paper checkout bags that meet the City’s plastic bag ban requirements can also be found on the webpage.
To further assist the business community through this change, beginning in April 2021, the City held three separate virtual business information sessions that are available to watch online.
What business establishments are affected?
The ban will affect all commercial 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 but not limited to: supermarkets, convenience stores, shops, service stations, department stores, clothing stores, restaurants, food trucks, farmers’ markets, and delivery services.
What bags are banned?
The legislation prohibits retail establishments from providing for checkout 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) 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 plastic bags are exempt from the ban?
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).
Philadelphians use almost one billion plastic bags each year, which litter our streets, waterways, and commercial corridors. Plastic bags account for over 10,000 hours of lost staff time at our recycling facility because they are not recyclable curbside and get caught in the equipment, which is dangerous for recycling center staff and costs the City money. Banning plastic bags will make our city cleaner, reduce waste, and save taxpayer dollars.
More information and resources are available for download at phila.gov/plastic-bag-ban.