In December 2019, Philadelphia City Council passed a Single Use Plastic Bag Ban, a major advancement toward cleaning up Philadelphia’s environment and city streets.
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. Click here for more details.
Why ban plastic bags?
Philadelphians use about 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.
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) 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 kind of bags will still be allowed?
Retail establishments will still be permitted to provide:
- Made of nylon, cotton, cloth, polyester, or another washable fabric 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)