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.
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.