Single-use plastic bag ban moves out of committee

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Legislation to sharply limit the availability of single-use plastic bags passed a Delaware House committee Wednesday.

Sponsored by Rep. Gerald Brady, D-Wilmington,  HB 130 would largely ban single-use carryout plastic bags at large retailers and chain stores.  

Delaware requires large retail stores to establish at-store recycling receptacles so customers can return plastic bags. Plastic carryout bags are also required to have labels that contain printed recycling messaging.

Still,  less than 10 percent of plastic carryout bags are recycled, leaving more than 3.5 million tons of plastic bags to be discarded annually.

“HB 130 cleared a major hurdle, and now we are one step closer to limiting the use of plastic bags in our state. Plastic bags litter communities, clog stormwater systems and cause substantial environmental distress,” said Brady.. “We have an obligation to the future generations in our state to take action, and this legislation is a fresh start. This is a measured, reasonable approach that will severely cut the number of plastic bags distributed throughout Delaware by focusing on large and chain retail stores.”

Under HB 130, stores with more than 7,000 square feet of retail sales space, or chains with three or more locations with each having at least 3,000 square feet of retail sales space would be affected. Restaurants would be excluded. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021,  stores would not be permitted to provide “any single-use plastic carryout bag” to a customer at the point of sale.

The bill includes a few exceptions – bags used to wrap meat, fish, flowers or potted plants or that contain unwrapped food items; bags that contain live animals; bags used to transport chemical pesticides; and bags placed over articles of clothing on a hanger.

California and  New York have enacted statewide bans on single-use plastic bags, with Hawaii’s most populous counties prohibiting non-biodegradable plastic bags at checkout Cities such as Boston, Chicago and Seattle have also enacted similar changes.

The legislation also asks retailers to make reusable or paper bags available, specifically at no cost for customers enrolled in the Delaware Food Stamp Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Women, Infants and Children program.

The legislation still faces an uncertain future, given the popularity of the bags and lobbying pressures, although recent stories on massive amounts of plastics in the world’s ocean have led to heightened concern.

There is also concern that the General Assembly is fixating on issues outside its core mission of dealing with the state budget. 

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