Cheltenham Township releases plastic bag legislation details, effective January 2024

Cheltenham Township has released the details of its plastic bag legislation which pertains to both consumers and businesses. The legislation was passed by the Township’s Board of Commissioners on April 26, 2023.

Ordinance 2453-23 will regulate the distribution of single-use plastic bags and nonrecycled paper bags and will be effective January 1, 2024. A 90-day phase-in period and full prohibition will begin April 1.

The legislation applies to all retail businesses, including both point of sale and through delivery from such establishments.

Instead, retailers may provide a recycled paper bag for a fee of not less than $.10, or a reusable cloth/fabric or polypropylene bag for a charge established by the retailer. Retailers must indicate the charge for this bag separately on the consumer receipt.

A proposal for legislation on single-use plastic bags was initially brought to the Board by the Township’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) in June 2022.  Members of the EAC, with the help of Penn Environment, presented to the Public Affairs Committee about the detrimental effects of excess plastic waste and research from other Pennsylvania communities that have adopted a similar ban on the bags.

“The EAC recommended the ordinance to the Commissioners and was particularly pleased that they recognized the importance of the fee for paper bags. The experience of other places with plastic bag ordinances is that the small fee motivates consumers to bring their own bags, so the ordinance will reduce the use of single-use bags of all types,” said EAC Chair Greta Bunin.

The single-use plastic bags commonly used at point of sale do not readily decompose, and have numerous detrimental effects on the environment, from litter to ground-level ozone formation to harming wildlife and waterways. By promoting the use of reusable, compostable, and recyclable materials within Cheltenham Township, the purpose of ordinance is to curb litter in Cheltenham’s streets, parks, and trees; protect local streams, rivers, and other aquatic environments; reduce greenhouse gas emissions and solid waste generation; lessen the burden of single-use items in landfills; and reduce contamination of the recycling stream. Through these anticipated outcomes, the initiative will be a step forward for the Waste Reduction goal of the Township’s 2013 Sustainability Plan.

“We’re pleased to move forward with initiatives like this that support our environmental and economic sustainability by generating less waste and trash.  Thanks to our EAC volunteers for their research and expertise, and to those communities, organizations, and businesses bold enough to lead the way,” remarked Ward 4 Commissioner Ann Rappoport. “Please contact us if your business wishes to sponsor/donate reusable bags to distribute to our residents, or if you are having trouble accessing reusable bags.”

Starting January 30, 2024 and for six months after, retailers MUST post signage at points of sale informing customers about this change. There will be a 90-day phase-in period, after which Township Code Enforcement will issue violations. Retailers may get one written warning, and subsequent violations will be subject to fines up to $1,000.

The following types of single-use bags are exempt from the ban:

  • laundry and dry-cleaning bags
  • newspaper bags
  • food storage, garbage, or pet waste bags sold in multiples in manufacturer’s package
  • bags used to bring perishable items (meat/fish, candy/nuts, fruits/vegetables, bakery items) to point of sale
  • bags used to contain live animals such as fish/insects at a pet store
  • bags associated with the delivery of goods by mail or similar transportation carrier (UPS/FedEx/Amazon)

The full text of Ordinance 2453-23 is available at

The EAC has compiled the following lists of Frequently Asked Questions:

Information about this ordinance is housed under the Sustainable Cheltenham portion of the Township website here.

For the Township’s official announcement, you can click here.

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