Philadelphia’s plastic bag ban is now fully in effect – app included

After a pandemic-induced delay, Philadelphia’s ban on single-use plastic bags is in full effect, enforcement and all.

The city council first passed the ban in late 2019 and implemented the law in October 2021. After a six-month “awareness, education and warning” period, the ban now comes with consequences.

Businesses that continue to use plastic bags can be fined, with a minimum penalty of $150. Repeat offenders can be brought to justice by the city.

Here’s what you need to know about the ban:

Why are single-use plastic bags banned?

Mayor Jim Kenney repeatedly quoted the climate crisis and plastic pollution as serious societal threats, and called the plastic bag ban an important step towards achieving the city’s environmental goals.

Officials point to the volume of bags the city uses – around 1 billion a year – and the role they play in litter the streets and the waterways. The city also estimates that it has wasted about 10,000 hours at recycling facilities recovering bags, which are not recyclable but often end up mixed with recyclables, and disentangling them from equipment.

Which companies are impacted?

the plastic bag ban affects all businesses in Philadelphia that offer carry-out or delivery bags. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Supermarkets
  • convenience stores
  • Stores
  • Gas stations
  • Department stores
  • Clothing stores
  • Restaurants
  • food trucks
  • Farmers markets
  • Delivery services

What bags are prohibited?

Legislation prohibits retail establishments from providing at checkout or delivery:

  • All single-use plastic bags
  • PLA (polylactic acid) bags created by a blown film extrusion process
  • Paper bags that do not use at least 40% recycled material

Which bags are exempt?

The following bags are exempt:

  • Dry cleaning bags
  • Bags sold in packages containing several bags intended for use as garbage bags or to contain pet or garden waste
  • Bags used to deliver perishable goods such as meat, fish, vegetables and plants
  • Bags provided by pharmacists to hold prescription drugs
  • Newspaper bags

Are thicker plastic bags allowed?

Some retailers have opted for slightly thicker plastic bags which do not appear to be banned by the city. These bags — which are over 2.25 mils thick and can be reused multiple times — aren’t allowed if they’ve been made using a blown-film extrusion process, officials point out. town.

“They’re still problematic for our recycling systems, and they’re still not good for the environment,” city spokeswoman Karen Guss told WHYY News. “We’re looking to create behavior change here, not a thicker plastic bag.”

The by-law can be amended to clarify this point. The original sponsor of the ban, council member Mark Squilla, introduced a invoice this would remove the 2.5 mil exemption from the definition of the ban on single-use plastic bags. The bill remains in committee.

Although Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration has yet to take a position in favor of a specific bill, Guss said she would support resolving the confusion created by the 2.25 mils tongue by amending the order for clarity.

How to report a company that violates the ban

Residents can report a business violating the plastic bag ban through the city’s 311 system, by phone, or in line.

Sophia Schmidt of WHYY News contributed reporting. Learn more about our partners, WHY.



Bryce K. Locke