Plastic bags to be prohibited beginning October 1, with a six-month warning period for businesses

PHILADELPHIA — Implementation of Philadelphia’s plastic bag ordinance will reach an important milestone on Friday, October 1, 2021, when the ban on stores giving plastic bags to customers kicks in. The ban, which was originally passed by City Council in December 2019, prohibits businesses from using single-use plastic bags for purchases beginning Friday, October 1, 2021. This follows a period of delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

An extensive education and awareness period began when the law’s implementation began on July 1, 2021. Though businesses will be prohibited from using plastic bags beginning October 1, there will be an additional six-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.

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. Businesses must hang signage to inform customers of the ban; signage is available online for businesses to download. 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 as we continue to confront challenges presented by the global pandemic, the climate crisis and plastic pollution remain two very serious threats to our planet and society,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Philadelphia remains committed to advancing our environmental goals, and the ban on single-use plastic bags will be an important step forward to achieve those goals. We also understand this is a major change for businesses, which is why we built out an extended education and warning period 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, all of which are available on a new webpage at Resources available include:

To further assist the business community through this change, earlier this year, the City held three separate virtual business information sessions that are available to watch online. We continue to conduct outreach to the business community and to residents and consumers.

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. 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).
  • Bags provided by pharmacists to contain prescription drugs.
  • Newspaper bags.
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