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February 28, 2019

While Philly considers plastic bag ban, here's how you can clean up

After multiple failed attempts, a bill that would ban single-use, plastic bags is gaining traction

Government Litter
plastic shopping bag laws Juan Pablo Arenas/

Philadelphia City Councilmember Mark Squilla proposed a new bill Thursday that represents the latest in a lineage of attempts to ban single-use plastic bags in the city.

The plastic bag saga in Philadelphia continues.

After years of failed attempts by city council members and community organizations, Philly has fallen behind municipalities that have banned single-use plastic bags.

As of the start of 2019, 19 New Jersey municipalities passed ordinances, already in effect or being enacted this year, prohibiting or restricting stores from providing these bags to consumers. And places like California, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., report widespread environmental and aesthetic improvements since they banned plastic bags.

Slowly but surely, the ball is finally rolling here, too. After years of failed attempts by Philadelphia City Council and Pennsylvania state legislators, Billy Penn reports Councilman Mark Squilla is seriously interested in passing bag ban legislation before the year is over.

Regardless of City Council's ability to get an ordinance passed, there are more public-driven initiatives than ever to address our litter problem. Here are just a few.


The group Not in Philly organizes and supports community members in cleaning up their own blocks. You can explore the map of who's already agreed to clean up their blocks and sign up to clean your block once a week here. They're currently supplying volunteers grabbers to make litter pickup easier and safer in Spruce Hill and Walnut Hill. Or, buy your own here.

Philadelphia's 12th annual Spring Cleanup is on April 6 this year. To donate or volunteer, click here. 

Can't make it? The Streets Department also hosts cleanups year-round, which are often facilitated by a local block captain. Here's a schedule of those cleanups.

Ever heard of plogging? It's a Scandinavian trend of running while picking up litter. Philly Plogging Week kicked off here in April 2018. So far, there's no sign of any 2019 events. But who says you can't do this on your own?


I know there are those who oppose the ban because "Without plastic bags, the city will be covered in dog poop." And to that, I would simply direct you here.

Here are some cheap reusable bags you can order online. 


L'tter Free Philly is working with Clean Water Action and the Sierra Club to support not just a plastic bag ban, but also more action on Philadelphia's broader litter and dumping problems.

Sign the petition to encourage reusable bags for the L'tter Free Philly Campaign here.


Follow the #BYObagPHL tag on Twitter to follow rallies, events, petitions, and updates on legislation.

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