Philadelphia begins enforcing ban on single-use plastic bags

The minimum penalty is $150 for each violation.

Friday, April 1, 2022
Plastic bag ban now enforced in Philly | What you should know
Though Philly's ban on single-use plastic bags took effect in October, starting today it is being enforced.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The City of Philadelphia began enforcing its plastic bag ban on Friday after a six-month warning period.

Businesses will now face fines for using single-use plastic bags for purchases.

The minimum penalty is $150 for each violation.

Businesses can offer or sell reusable bags, thick plastic bags designed for multiple reuses and paper bags with at least 40 percent recycled content.

Philly's plastic bag ban was passed in December 2019 but was delayed due to the pandemic.

It took effect on October 1, 2021.

The move is all part of the city's effort to reduce plastic pollution and litter.

Shoppers are urged to bring their own reusable bags.

Christine Knapp, the director of sustainability with the City of Philadelphia, said around one billion plastic bags were used in the city in the span of a year pre-pandemic.

She says you can keep using plastic bags you already have. The goal is not to give out new ones.

"Our environmental-climate goals, we want to reduce waste overall, we have a waste goal, and we especially want to reduce plastic waste as part of that goal," said Knapp.

Knapp also said the bags can clog recycling machinery, and there's a quality of life component, reducing the city's pollution and litter.

Some shoppers inside Reading Terminal Market said they have adjusted to bringing their own reusable bags.

"Well, I always put them in my pockets before I come down. I keep them all the time. Same two bags. I reuse them all the time," said Benjamin Moore from East Falls.

Others said they have gotten used to getting paper bags.

"I kind of like paper bags because I can reuse them at home, and I can use them for many different functions. It's easier to get rid of them too, and you know that you're not actually putting them out in the environment," said Rebecca Koolian from Newburgh, New York.

Here is more information from the city:

What business establishments are affected?

The ban will affect all commercial 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 but not limited to: supermarkets, convenience stores, shops, service stations, department stores, clothing stores, restaurants, food trucks, farmers' markets, and delivery services.

What bags are banned?

The legislation prohibits retail establishments from providing for checkout or delivery:

  • All single-use plastic bags. This includes bags created through a "blown film extrusion" process. 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 plastic bags are exempt from the ban?

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).

  • Bags provided by pharmacists to contain prescription drugs.

  • Newspaper bags.