Delaware House passes ban on plastic carryout bags

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The Delaware House passed a bill Wednesday that would effectively end the use of plastic carryout bags in Delaware stores.

The bill was passed on a 28-12 party-line vote.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting single-use carryout plastic bags at large retailers and chain stores. Under the law, which took effect Jan. 1, 2021, 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 are not permitted to provide “any single-use plastic carryout bag” to a customer at the point of sale.

Sponsors claimed stores had exploited a provision in the law by simply switching to slightly thicker plastic bags for customers that are no more “reusable” than the bags targeted by the law. Manufacturers claim the thicker bags, if not soiled, can be used more than 100 times. 

If the bill becomes law, Delaware would have one of the toughest plastic bag laws in the nation.  Even California allows thicker plastic bags, although stores charge for their use, a move that encourages customers to bring their own bags.

 House Bill 212, sponsored by Reps. Brady, Valerie Longhurst, and Eric Morrison, all Democrats, would phase out plastic carryout bags from all stores, regardless of size, beginning July 1, 2022. HB 212 would define “reusable bag” by specifying that it must be made of polypropylene fabric, PET non-woven fabric, nylon, cloth, cotton, jute, hemp product, or other washable fabric. The bag also must be made of cloth or other durable fabric that has stitched handles.

In Delaware, nearly 2,400 tons of plastic bags end up in landfills annually. HB 212 would drastically reduce that amount.

“Plastic bags from retail stores simply don’t get recycled at a meaningful rate in Delaware or anywhere else, so the best-case scenario is they end up in the landfill where they won’t break down for thousands of years,” said Rep. Longhurst, D-Bear. “But all too commonly, single-use plastic bags end up littered along our roads and blown or washed into our natural areas and waterways. The law we passed in 2019 was crafted to help fix that, but we obviously still have work to do.”

The bill would retain certain exceptions to the plastic bag prohibition, including plastic bags used to wrap meat, fish, flowers, or potted plants or that contain loose items; bags that contain live animals; bags used to transport chemical pesticides; bags provided to contain an unwrapped food item; and bags placed over articles of clothing on a hanger.

“Moving our state away from single-use plastic bags will help preserve our waterways and green spaces, reduce litter in our communities, and protect the long-term health of our neighbors,” said Sen. Kyle Evans Gay, D-Talleyville, the Senate prime sponsor of HB 212. “Our children and grandchildren deserve to inherit a Delaware free of trash and pollution, and we need to protect our community from microplastics that end up in the food supply. The time has come for us to take the next step in doing what’s right for our environment and our health.”

HB 212 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Check out Delaware Business Now’s view on the bill. 

Give the plastic bag bill a chance

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