Enforcement of Philly’s plastic bag ban to begin Friday

A shopper carries a plastic bag in the Manhattan borough of New York City
Reuters file

Philadelphia will begin enforcing its ban on thin, single-use plastic bags on Friday, with businesses that violate the law facing fines of at least $150.

The bags, which are being phased out in many jurisdictions, have been prohibited since October; however, the city has been issuing warnings, not financial penalties.

A minimum fine of $150 will be assessed for each violation, and the city may go to court to pursue additional sanctions for those who repeatedly violate the regulation, according to Mayor Jim Kenney’s office.

Paper bags that are made of at least 40% recycled material and contain no old-growth fiber are permitted, as are reusable bags made of nylon, cotton, cloth, polyester and thick, non-film plastic.

Stores can choose to charge a fee for bags, but it is not a requirement.

Nearly all businesses, including corner stores, restaurants, food trucks, clothing shops and delivery services, fall under the ban, which applies to all plastic bags less than 2.25 mils thick or made by blown-film intrusion.

Exceptions include dry cleaner and newspaper bags, as well as bags used in grocery stores for produce, meat and other perishable items. Store can continue to sell trash bags and dog poop bags.

City Council passed the ban in December 2019, and its implementation was repeatedly pushed back, with officials wary of imposing additional restrictions in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

The aim is to reduce litter and plastic pollution and improve the recycling process.

Nearly 1 billion plastic bags are used in Philadelphia each year, according to the mayor’s office, and they clog up machinery at the city’s recycling facility.

“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,” Kenney said in a statement earlier this month.

Several states, including New York and Delaware, have moved to prohibit plastic bags in recent years, and New Jersey is set to implement a ban in May.

Locally, West Chester has passed a similar law, and Narberth requires businesses to charge a 10 cent fee for plastic bags.

Businesses in Philadelphia looking to download signs informing customers of the ban can go to www.phila.gov/programs/plastic-bag-ban, where there is also a list of 21 vendors that manufacture paper and reusable bags.

Residents who want to report an establishment for violating the ban can call 311 or go to www.phila.gov/311.


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