Single-use plastic bag ban enforcement to begin on April 1, following a six-month warning period for businesses
PHILADELPHIA — The City will begin enforcement of Philadelphia’s plastic bag ordinance on Friday, April 1, 2022 following a six-month warning period for businesses. The ban, which was originally passed by City Council in December 2019, prohibits businesses from using single-use plastic bags for purchases. Implementation was initially delayed for a period due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
An extensive education and awareness period began when the law’s implementation kicked in on July 1, 2021. Though businesses were prohibited from using plastic bags beginning October 1, 2021, there has been an additional six-month awareness, education, and warning period before full enforcement begins on April 1 in order to provide businesses with ample time to prepare and comply with the law.
“The climate crisis and plastic pollution remain two very serious threats to our planet and society. Philadelphia is committed to advancing our environmental goals, and the ban on single-use plastic bags is an important step forward to achieve those goals” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “We also understand this is a major change for businesses and are pleased to see so many of them already complying with the law throughout the extended education and warning period. As we approach the April 1 enforcement deadline, we urge businesses to make the necessary arrangements to avoid any financial penalties. And we urge shoppers to bring reusable bags to do your shopping.”
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. To ensure businesses had ample time to comply with the law, from October 1, 2021 to April 1, 2022, the City has only issued warnings to businesses that are not in compliance. Starting April 1, 2022, the City will begin issuing violations that carry financial penalties.
The City will issue violation notices for businesses using non-compliant bags. These notices carry a minimum penalty of $150. 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.
To assist businesses through this transition, the City provided various resources, all of which are available at phila.gov/plastic-bag-ban. Resources available include:
- Signage—in multiple languages—that businesses can download, print, and hang at points of sale
- 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, the City held virtual business information sessions in 2021 that are available to watch and share online. We continue to conduct outreach to the business community and to residents and consumers.
What business establishments are affected?
The ban affects 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 (must be 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).
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 phila.gov/plastic-bag-ban.