Statewide ban for larger stores starts in 2021

By the year 2021, shoppers in Delaware can say goodbye to all those single-use plastic bags at many stores.

HB 130, sponsored by over a dozen legislators throughout the state and signed into law July 29, pushes larger retailers to both expand in-house recycling and promote a shift towards reusable bags.

A second bill, Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 5 (S1SB5), was approved by the House June 26. It was designed to address individuals dumping large quantities of trash on public and private property by increasing penalties for unlawful dumping. It too was signed July 29.

It also establishes and creating a Litter Investigation and Enforcement Fund. S1SB-5 passed the House unanimously 47-0. HB 130 passed the Senate 13-8.

Two Senate Democrats and six Republicans voted no. None of the senators who voted against HB 130 responded to a request for comment before publication. The vote tally is online at https://legiscan.com/DE/rollcall/HB130/id/878846.

Clean waterways

Primary sponsor Rep. Gerald Brady, D-Wilmington, said the limit will go a long way toward preserving the environment for future generations, adding that younger citizens and future leaders will be the ultimate beneficiaries.

“We want our waterways to be clean and vibrant, our wildlife to be healthy and our stormwater systems to be effective,” Brady said. “I have to thank my colleagues, Gov. Carney and many advocates for their passion and support to move this legislation, which will help our society as a whole.”

The bag ban will apply to:

A store with at least 7,000 square feet of retail sales space; A company with three or more stores or retail locations in Delaware, each having at least 3,000 square feet of retail sales space.

They must make paper bags available to shoppers at no extra cost. This means larger retailers and box stores like Walmart and Acme, which have 20 and 15 locations throughout Delaware respectively, will be affected.

Failure to comply could cost violators $500 for the first violation, up to $1,000 for the second, and up to $2,000 for the third and each subsequent violation.

Stores can still provide plastic bags for things like raw meat, vegetables, live plants, and certain harmful or caustic chemicals.

In a statement, Gov. John Carney said he was pleased to sign HB 130, noting one of the best ways to take pride in one’s community is to keep it clean.

“That’s why I was proud to stand with mayors, county executives, and other local leaders recently to announce the Delaware Anti-Litter Alliance – a coalition of public officials committed to keeping our state litter free,” Carney said.

Sen. Trey Paradee, D-West Dover, said the new legislation is about protecting both the environment and public health.

“These single-use bags never fully break down,” Pardee said. “Instead, they turn into tiny bits of microplastic that end up in our food supply and eventually inside of all of us. I’m extremely proud of my colleagues in the Delaware General Assembly for taking this important first step toward reducing the amount of plastic in our environment.”

Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, said future generations deserve to inherit a Delaware free of trash and pollution.

“We can’t expect someone else to take care of our natural environment for us,” Hansen said. “Preserving our forests, waterways and green spaces requires direct and deliberate action, which is why I am proud to have sponsored Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 5 and co-sponsored House Bill 130.”

Bag bans a growing trend

Delaware is now one of 10 states with plastic bag bans. Hawaii
became the first to ban plastic bags entirely in 2012.

Over 200 counties and municipalities and dozens of cities have
enacted individual ordinances either imposing a fee on plastic bags
or banning them outright, according to a report from NBC.

The plastic problem

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, Americans use more than 100 billion petroleum-based plastic bags a year, using 12 million barrels of oil. They estimate that less than 10% are recycled or reused, resulting in more than 3.5 million tons of plastic bags thrown away or discarded annually.

The website also notes that on average, a single plastic bag is used for only 12 minutes.

A 2018 report by The Balance Small Business resource website notes plastic bags can take anywhere between 10 and 1,000 years to disintegrate.

A 2018 study by the state and the Keep Delaware Beautiful campaign identified roughly 6,000 pieces of litter for every mile of Delaware roadway surveyed.

At Harvest Market in Hockessin, owner Bob Kleszics said in 25 years of business he has never used plastic bags, instead providing handled #70 paper bags. They also offer a 10-cent per-bag rebate to offset the cost of using a new bag.

He noted that the new law would not affect his business anyway, since his single store is under 7,000 square feet.

Regarding the new legislation, however, Kleszics said it’s about time.

“Sometimes, you can’t just wait for businesses to do the right thing and have to force them to do it via legislation,” he said.

Jim Jordan, the executive director of the Pennsylvania-based environmental education organization Brandywine and Red Clay Alliance, said they fully support the ban.

“Plastic is just not good for the environment,” Jordan said. “It’s a nuisance in numerous ways. It has a long life so it doesn’t break down or decompose.”

Jordan, a resident of Hockessin, said he’d also like to see a nationwide movement to change over to paper bags and products once again.

“I know that is a controversial subject for some folks, but the bottom line is that paper is a renewable resource,” he said.