No More Plastic Bags: Delaware Becomes Fourth State in Nation to Approve Ban

Plastic Free Delaware set a Guinness World Record in April 2016 when concerned students and environmentalists rolled the world’s largest plastic bag ball on Wilmington’s Riverfront

Delaware has now joined California, New York and Vermont in approving legislation that will outlaw single-use plastic bags.  On Thursday, the State Senate joined the House in passing HB 130 (13-8), setting the stage for the law to go into effect January 1, 2021, following Governor John Carney’s expected signature.

Introduced by Rep. Gerald Brady and co-sponsored by Sen. Trey Paradee, the measure replaces the existing at-store single-use plastic bag recycling program by banning the use of thin plastic bags at large retailers. Retailers over 7,000 square feet or those with three or more locations of 3,000 square feet would be limited from providing single-use plastic bags except for items including meat, flowers and prescriptions.

Championed by Rep. Gerald Brady (left, back row), the plastic bag measure largely limits single-use carryout plastic bags at large and chain stores

According to New Castle County Councilwoman Dee Durham, who co-founded the advocacy group Plastic Free Delaware, the legislation also encourages a cultural shift among shoppers to reusable bags with the aim of cleaning up Delaware’s communities and watersheds, reducing stormwater and trash management costs to taxpayers, and promoting health and safety across the ecosystem’s food chain.

“Millions of plastic bags end up as litter strewn across our communities, roadsides, parks, forests, rivers and coastlines, and clog our stormwater management systems resulting in increased cleanup costs,” said Durham.

Estimates suggest that the average American uses 500 plastic carryout bags annually. Single-use plastics are made from natural gas or petroleum, a fossil fuel in limited supply with extensive environmental impacts in its extraction, production, and transportation.   

Plastic Free Delaware said that a voluntary 2009 recycling law has failed to meaningfully shift shoppers toward reusable bags. The group said that “communities, roadsides and marine environments are choking in trash and plastic litter” and that plastic carryout bags remain one of the most prevalent and pervasive types of litter found during the annual Coastal Cleanup – a three-hour event each September.

HB130 also makes it possible for Delaware’s local governments to use fee-based ordinances to further curb the use of plastic and paper reusable bags beyond the large retailers covered under HB130 as has occurred in other local governments in Maryland, New Jersey, New York and beyond.

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  • Plastic bags can be used more than once. Many churches cut them into strips and crochet them into mats for the homeless to lay on. They can be recycled into new bags, they can be used in bathroom trashcans . There are sites where you can make cell phone cases, purses and change purses with them.

  • DC, which should be a State, has been doing this for years. My point is that there are more DC residents than VT and WY have combined, and that population gets 4 senators and DC gets zero. Some democracy.

  • Are garbage bags going to be outlawed — or is this just the small bags used for groceries and other items? Garbage bags are single use…

  • Interestingly enough, plastic bag bans may not be the best solution to the problem. As much as I dislike plastic, there have been studies that show that plastic trash bag sales sharply increase after these bans go into place. Which kind of defeats the purpose of the bans since trash nags use even more plastic.

    NPR’s Planet Money had a great bit on their podcast The Indicator regarding this topic, and it came out not too long ago.

    Unforeseen effects of legislation is quite interesting. Hopefully other states take note of these effects, so that we may find better solutions in the future for this issue.

  • Since they can’t force people to recycle, they’re gonna do it another. At the expense of those who really can afford it the least. Because the cost is going to be placed in the consumer. Annoying goody do gooders, having only half the answer and not even trying to solve the whole problem.

  • Why not use an Old School solution. Go back to paper grocery bags, they do biodegrade. Also go back to paper straws, like we had in the 1950’s and 60’s. Even McDonald’s had them.

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