Philadelphia plastic bag ban takes full effect

Single-use plastic bags are officially banned in the sixth most populous city in the United States, creating potential sales opportunities for distributors of promotional products.

Philadelphia’s ban on most plastic bags went into effect Friday, April 1. The city council had passed a law banning disposables in 2019 and the rollout began in 2021, but the rules are now fully in place and enforced with $150 fines.

Banning plastic bags creates the opportunity to sell reusable bins.

By law, all thin plastic bags and thicker ones are prohibited. Plastic bags with a thickness greater than 2.25 mil. are still allowed. Notably, the regulations also prohibit paper bags made from old fibers and/or paper bags with less than 40% post-consumer recycled content.

The purpose of the ban is to tackle what proponents describe as ubiquitous litter caused by plastic bags. Philadelphians use nearly a billion plastic bags every year, depending on the city.

The bans on plastic bags and some paper bags apply to retailers of all sizes, from grocery stores and farmers’ markets to department stores, clothing stores, restaurants and more.

The widely enforced nature of the ban is a potential source of sales opportunities for promotional distributors. Retailers of all sizes might be willing to sell and/or provide customers with reusable bags like totes. Marking these bags with the name of a store makes good business sense, considering the amount of reusable goods locals will be carrying.

More than just affected retailers, they are prospects. Businesses ranging from salons and gyms to yoga studios, aware of the ban and educated by a distributor on the marketing potential of reusable bags, could sell and/or give bags to customers, knowing that locals will not be able to no more relying on plastic disposables.

Companies based in Philadelphia and surrounding areas in various industries, especially those that want to align their brand with a sustainability ethos, may also be more inclined to invest in branded reusable bags in light of the bans.

Authorities note that bags made of nylon, polyester, cloth, cotton and other materials designed to be reused are allowed in Philly, a city of more than 1.6 million people. Some critics note the bans reduce store budgetswhich can potentially have a negative impact on marketing spend.

As the Philadelphia ban goes into effect, similar bans are looming just across the Delaware River in New Jersey — the nation’s most densely populated state.

On May 4, New Jersey will begin enforcing a law prohibiting the supply or sale of single-use plastic bags and styrofoam catering products in all stores and catering businesses in the state. The law also prohibits the supply or sale of single-use paper bags by grocery stores that occupy 2,500 square feet or more. The Garden State bans also present sales potential for the promotion.

Plastic bag bans have expanded to more cities and states in recent years. The impetus behind them is largely environmental. Supporters of the ban say the bags become sources of litter and pollution, spoiling natural habitats and posing a hazard to wildlife, which can choke or become entangled in the disposable items.

Critics, including the plastics industry and some lawmakers, have argued that the bans can hurt small businesses economically. They also point to studies that claim reusable bags need to be used for a long time to have less environmental impact than single-use plastic bags.

Bryce K. Locke