Starting Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, most single-use plastic bags will be banned in Delaware.
House Bill 130 will prohibit stores with more than 7,000 square feet of retail sales space, or chain stores with at least 3,000 square feet of space, from handing out single-use plastic carryout bags for purchases. Restaurants, however, would be excluded. Also excluded are bags used to wrap meat, fish, flowers or potted plants; and bags used for live animals or chemical pesticides, or placed over articles of clothing.
If retailers provide plastic bags for wrapping food, they must provide an in-store plastic bag recycling program.
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control hosted a virtual workshop Sept. 9 to provide an update on the law and gain input from stakeholders. Adam Schlachter, DNREC Pollution Prevention program manager, said dialog with retailers and other participants will continue to iron out the final regulations.
After state attorneys and DNREC leadership review the final regulations, a public hearing will be scheduled to accept written and verbal comments. Schlachter said it's possible the hearing could take place in late October.
Delaware will be the fifth state in the nation to have a plastic bag ban law, joining California, Hawaii, New York and Oregon. At least 16 other states have bans or fees for bags at county and municipal levels.
Across the country, less than 10 percent of plastic bags are recycled, with 3.5 million tons thrown out annually.
Schlachter said education is a major component of the program. “We don't want confusion on what can and cannot be recycled. We want at-store recycling to be visible, clearly marked and easily accessible,” he said. “And we want to ensure that the plastic is going to a valid plastic bag recycling center and not being disposed of improperly.”
Don Long, DNREC Recycling Team outreach leader, said state officials are promoting the use of reusable bags, including a new heavyweight plastic bag which can be cleaned and reused or recycled.
Under the law, retailers can offer customers free paper bags or charge for each bag.
Schlachter said monitoring and reporting are key to the law’s success, but how that will be accomplished has not been finalized. “It needs some further discussion and we are open to that,” he said.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control would enforce the law, and a violation would result in civil penalty up to $500 for the first offense, up to $1,000 for a second offense and up to $2,000 for a third.
An amendment allowing municipalities to enact laws for stores 500 square feet or more, and another amendment removing the mention of compostable bags from the bill and encouraging people on food assistance to use reusable bags both passed with the bill.
Purpose of the law
As noted in the legislation, the purpose of the bill is to clean up Delaware’s communities and watersheds, reduce stormwater- and trash-management costs to taxpayers, and promote the health and safety of watersheds, wildlife and humans, and the ecosystem’s food chain.
Read the bill at: legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail?legislationId=47388.