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Philadelphia's plastic bag ban will affect businesses that use bags for carryout and delivery. Credit: Max Mester

On Oct. 1, Philadelphia’s long-awaited plastic bag ban went into effect — but noncompliant business won't face severe consequences just yet.

The ban seeks to eliminate single-use plastic bags, bags made from blown film extrusion, and any paper bag that has less than 40% recycled content, according to 6abc. In order to assist with the transition, the city has deemed the next six months a grace period where businesses that use plastic bags will only receive a warning for noncompliance. Starting April 1, 2022, any business that uses plastic bags will be fined a minimum amount of $75, with repercussions potentially increasing with repeated offenses.

The plastic bag ban will affect businesses that use bags for carryout and delivery, WHYY reported. This includes convenience stores, supermarkets, clothing and department stores, restaurants, and farmers’ markets. 

There are some exemptions to the plastic bag ban, including dry cleaning bags, bags used to deliver perishables, bags for prescription drugs, newspaper bags, bags sold in packages of multiple meant to be used as garbage bags, and bags for pet or yard waste.

Although the Philadelphia City Council originally passed the ban's legislation in December 2019, its implementation was delayed due to the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses. 

Prior to the ban, recycling facilities experienced a 10,000-hour increase in work due to extra time spent sorting through nonrecyclable plastic bags that ended up in the equipment, WHYY reported. The city was also using approximately 1 billion pieces of plastic bags each year, which littered streets, waterways, and commercial corridors.

Plastic bags have also been found to worsen the effects of Philadelphia’s natural disasters. A recent report by WHYY found that following Hurricane Ida, the Philadelphia Water Department spent days removing trash from about 75,000 storm drains. 

Some city officials are confident in the ban’s ability to help the community. Mayor Jim Kenney expressed optimism about the ban, citing it as a great step toward environmental progress. 

“Even as we continue to confront challenges presented by the global pandemic, the climate crisis and plastic pollution remain two very serious threats to our planet and society,” Kenney said in a press release.