Single-use plastic bags are to be banned in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1 October after several delays.

The City Council approved the ban in December 2019 but its implementation was delayed due to the impacts of Covid-19 on the business community, particularly small businesses.

An ‘extensive’ education and awareness period for its implementation began on 1 July to help businesses prepare for and comply with the law.

There will also be a six-month preparation period from 1 October to 1 April before the law is fully enforced.

During this period, the City Council will issue warnings for failing to use compliant bags.

The ban covers all single-use plastic bags made from polylactic acid (PLA) created through a blown film extrusion process, regardless of their thickness.

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It also prevents retails establishments from providing any paper bag that does not contain at least 40% recycled content or comply with the labelling criteria set out in the law.

The ban does not affect dry cleaner bags, bags sold in packages containing multiple bags, those used by customers to hold perishable items for purchase, bags used by pharmacists for prescription drugs or newspaper bags.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said: “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. “

“Philadelphia remains committed to advancing our environmental goals, and the ban on single-use plastic bags will be an important step forward to achieve those goals.

“We also understand this is a major change for businesses, which is why we built out an extended education and warning period to ensure widespread awareness of the law to our diverse business owners and to residents and consumers.”

In response to the ban, convenience store chain Wawa has announced a transition to reusable bags, with plans to give 1,000 away for free.