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December 31, 2020

Philly delays plastic bag ban again, now scheduled to take effect 2021

Warnings will be posted in July, with enforcement beginning 2022

Philadelphia's ban on plastic bags won't become a reality for another six months, city officials said Wednesday. 

The ordinance banning single-use plastic bags will now go into effect on July 1. This is the second six-month extension of the ban, following April's extension which pushed implementation to Jan. 1.

A plastic bag ban for all retail businesses was first passed by City Council in December 2019. However, it has faced numerous delays in implementation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city said the order was extended this time "due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the business community—particularly small businesses."

Extending the order allows businesses greater time to warn customers of the change, which is also required by the City Council's ordinance. 

Businesses will be required to post signs of the ban going into effect beginning July 31, with a warning period beginning months later on Oct. 1 and extending to April 1, 2022. 

After that, the city says it will fully enforce the plastic bag ban for local businesses. 

Noting the even longer time until full enforcement, officials said that the environment still remains a priority during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

"We know the climate crisis and plastic pollution remain very serious threats to our plant and society, even during the global pandemic. However, we realize that this law will only be successful if there is widespread messaging to our diverse business owners, effective enforcement, and most importantly, partnership among all stakeholders and communities," said officials.

All retail businesses will be subject to the plastic ban ordinance, including the following: 

• Supermarkets
• Restaurants
• Department Stores 
• Convenience Stores
• Clothing Stores 
• Delivery Services 
• Food Trucks
• Farmers Markets

The following are exemptions to the plastic bag ban: 

• Dry cleaner bags
• Bags sold in packages containing multiple bags, such as for garbage or pet waste
• Bags used by retail establishments to contain perishable items

According to Philly officials, residents use around one billion plastic bags each year. The usage creates huge amounts of litter. 

Sorting through plastic bags at Philly's waste sites also takes about 10,000 hours of staff time, since the bags are not recyclable and get caught in equipment, leading to unwanted repair costs.

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