Ban on single-use plastic bag bans at chain stores coming on Jan. 1

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Delaware is now in the final month of a ban on the use of single-use plastic bags.

The new law begins on Jan. 1. Eight states have enacted single-use plastic bag restrictions.

Under the law, plastic carryout bags will no longer be available from larger stores (more than 7,000 square feet) as well as smaller stores with at least three locations in Delaware of 3,000 square feet each or more. Supermarkets and big-box stores are affected, as well as convenience store chains. Restaurants are not subject to the ban, nor are small stores with one or two locations.

The ban is designed to reduce beach and roadside litter, save landfill space, increase recycling efforts, and keep recycling facilities from shutting down when plastic bags get stuck in the machinery. Recycling rates for the bags are low when compared to other items.

“Each Delawarean uses about 434 plastic bags and that means nearly 2,400 tons of plastic bags end up in our landfills annually,” said Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin. “A decrease by the public of plastic carryout bags can mitigate a large portion of this waste, and help our environment by reducing the amount plastic bags on our roads and waterways that can harm us and our wildlife.”

House Bill 130was signed in 2019 by Gov. John Carney

Retailers can choose to offer paper bags, or cloth bags, or a thicker type of plastic bag that is designed to be reusable. The law allows retail stores to charge a fee for the bags they provide at the point of sale.

One piece of legislation that called for a ban on paper bags did not advance. Advocates cited the environmental issues that come with tree harvesting and recycling as resaons for the measure.

DNREC advises consumers to wash or disinfect their reusable bags by turning them inside out and wiping them down with a disinfecting agent after each use.

All retail stores affected by the law are required to provide an At-Store Recycling program for plastic bags and other specific plastics, like cereal box liners, newspaper sleeves, and single-use produce or meat bags. The drop-off locations should be visible and accessible within the store. Bags that are no longer reusable or unwanted should be recycled at these locations. Plastic bags should not be placed in carts that are part of the state’s curbside recycling program but should instead be returned to stores for recycling.

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