Enforcement of Philadelphia’s plastic bag ban begins April 1

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Department of Licensing and Inspections to issue penalties of at least $150 for violations


PHILADELPHIA — On April 1st, nine months after Philadelphia’s ban on single-use plastic bags took effect, and more than two years after the city council signed it into law, officials will begin imposing penalties on businesses that violate the ordinance. It’s estimated that Philadelphians use an average of 585 million plastic bags every year, but less than 2% are recycled.

“Single-use plastic bags are the poster child for our throwaway society. They’re only used once and then they often litter our city and our environment,” said Faran Savitz, the zero waste advocate at PennEnvironment. “By finally enforcing the ban on plastic bags, Philadelphia is getting serious about tackling the scourge of plastic pollution.By dramatically reducing the distribution, we dramatically reduce the pollution.”

Philadelphia’s ordinance forbids any plastic bag made through a “blown-film extrusion” process, regardless of its thickness or weight. It requires a broad set of retailers to comply, including, but not limited to, grocery stores, restaurants, clothing stores, convenience stores, service stations, food trucks, farmers markets and delivery services. A December 2021 survey by PennEnvironment of more than 50 chain retailers found that over half were in violation of the law. 

“I am grateful to the retailers who partnered with me and the City on this Bring Your Own Bag legislation,” said Councilman Mark Squilla, the original sponsor of the plastic bag ban. “By working together, we are changing the mindset of consumers away from single use bags and creating a more sustainable, cleaner environment for generations to come.”

Philadelphians are asked to call 311 to report businesses that continue to distribute plastic bags in violation of the ordinance. Reports go to the Philadelphia Department of License and Inspection, which will impose penalties on noncompliant retailers. Violations can carry fines of at least $150 and repeat offenders can be taken to court for higher penalties. 

“While many Philadelphia businesses have taken steps to comply with the city’s ban on plastic bags, it’s still critical for the city to hold businesses accountable when they are violating our laws and harming our environment, communities and quality of life,” said Savitz.


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 www.ZeroWaste4PA.org, or to learn more about any of our issues visit www.PennEnvironment.org.