Philly plastic bag ban takes effect

Plastic Bags at Checkout
Getty Images

Philadelphia’s much-delayed ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect Friday.

While the bags will be prohibited, inspectors will not fine violators for another six months, with the city preferring to issue warnings in the meantime as business owners adapt to the change.

The law applies to all commercial properties, including stores, supermarkets, restaurants, food trucks and farmers’ markets. Businesses must offer reusable or paper bags and can charge customers, though a fee is not required.

Proponents of the ban have argued that the rule will reduce litter in city streets and waterways and cut down on inefficiencies in the recycling process.

“Philadelphia remains committed to advancing our environmental goals, and the ban on single-use plastic bags will be an important step forward to achieve those goals,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement last week.

Nearly 1 billion plastic bags are used in Philadelphia every year, and, though they are not recyclable, the bags find their way to the city’s recycling facilities and clog up machinery, at a cost of $300,000, according to the Kenney administration.

Beginning April 1, businesses that do not comply will be ticketed at least $75, and frequent violators could be taken to court.

There are exemptions for dry cleaner bags, trash bags, bags used for produce and other perishable items, newspaper bags and bags used in pharmacies for prescription drugs.

All other bags less than 2.25 mils thick or made by blown-film intrusion fall under the ban.

Thick plastic bags made through a different manufacturing process are permitted as reusable bags, as are nylon, cotton, cloth and polyester bags.

Paper bags must be made of at least 40% recycled material; contain no old-growth fiber; and be labeled recyclable, according to the law.

City Council approved the ban in December 2019, and it was initially set to go into effect in October 2020. Implementation was pushed back repeatedly, with officials wary of imposing additional regulations on top of coronavirus protocols.

Eight states, including Delaware and New York, have moved to prohibit plastic bags in recent years, and several cities, such as Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, have passed similar laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Retailers in Philadelphia were instructed in July to post signs alerting customers of the upcoming ban.

Kenney’s office said there has been an “extensive education and awareness period” since then, with outreach scheduled to continue through April.

Business owners can download signage at The site also lists 18 companies that manufacture paper and/or reusable bags.

Residents who want to report stores violating the ban should call 311 or go to

More from our Sister Sites