Cheltenham township’s board of commissioners passes legislation to ban single-use plastic bags

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Ordinance expected to reduce the 13.7 million of plastic bags used annually and decrease plastic litter

Cheltenham– Last night, Cheltenham commissioners unanimously passed new legislation which will take crucial steps to reduce plastic bag use in the township.

Through this action, Cheltenham becomes the first Pennsylvania municipality in 2023 to pass legislation in the growing effort to rein in single-use plastics and the 16th overall. This measure sets strong standards for halting the sale or distribution of single-use plastic bags at Cheltenham grocery stores, pharmacies, corner stores, and other retailers. It also requires that paper bags consist of at least 40% recycled post-consumer content, puts a $0.10 fee on the distribution of all other bags, and sets fines for retailers who violate the law. 

Plastic pollution is one of the most common forms of litter, and plastic bags in particular pose a great harm to the environment. PennEnvironment estimates that Cheltenham residents use 13.7 million single-use plastic bags every year. Cheltenham’s ordinance is a strong first step on the path to curbing plastic waste in the township. 

“We’re really excited to take this step toward a cleaner, more sustainable Cheltenham,” said Greta Bunin, chair of the Cheltenham Township Environmental Advisory Council which drafted the legislation. “We’re so pleased that it passed unanimously, showing that all the commissioners support it.”

The bill is expected to go into effect on January 1st, 2024, though retailers will have 90 days following that date as an adjustment period to transition away from plastic. 

PennEnvironment worked with the Cheltenham EAC and Board of Commissioners to draft the ordinance. It’s based on model legislation and PennEnvironment worked with the Township to tailor it to Cheltenham’s needs.

PennEnvironment’s Zero Waste Advocate Faran Savitz issued the following statement in response to the announcement:

“We applaud the board of commissioners for taking this crucial step to address pollution from single-use plastic bags in Cheltenham. This is a major advancement in the fight to rein in the scourge of rampant plastic pollution that plagues our neighborhoods, our local parks and green spaces, and our rivers, streams, and oceans.

“Plastic bags are the poster child for the environmental harm caused by single-use plastics. Nothing we use for a few minutes, such as single-use plastic bags, should be allowed to litter our communities, pollute our environment, and fill our landfills and incinerators for hundreds of years to come. This sends a strong message that Cheltenham is a leader in the effort to tackle litter and single-use plastic pollution.

“Legislation to tackle plastic bag pollution is broadly supported by Pennsylvanians, and we’ve seen the wealth of support from Cheltenham residents who care deeply about this issue calling for action.  With this vote, Cheltenham joins hundreds of cities across the nation that have already implemented similar legislation. From those laws, we know these policies work. By dramatically reducing the distribution, we dramatically reduce the pollution.

“Every resident has had the experience of watching plastic bags blowing down our streets and through our neighborhoods, seeing plastic bags stuck in curbside trees and bushes, or in our parks and other outdoor places we love. In the wake of Earth Day we’re heartened that our elected officials have stood up and taken action.


PennEnvironment is a statewide citizen-based non-profit environmental advocacy organization working to promote clean air, clean water, and protect our open spaces. To learn more about our work to tackle the threat of single-use plastics, visit, or to learn more about any of our issues visit