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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate passes ban on single-use plastic bags in Delaware

June 6, 2019

DOVER – Legislation to bar most single-use, plastic carryout bags from being distributed by grocery stores around the state passed the Senate 13-8 on Thursday and will now head to the governor for signature.

Introduced in April, House Bill 130 seeks to curtail the amount of litter and plastic pollution in local and global ecosystems.

Plastics of all kinds are harmful to the environment and persist for centuries before degrading. Plastic grocery bags are particularly harmful, as they blow away easily and go on to clog rivers and streams, choke wildlife, litter Delaware’s open spaces, and even obstruct everything from storm drains to recycling machinery, causing daily delays and expenses.

“This bill is a signal that we take environmental stewardship seriously and are willing to step up our game,” said Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover. “From climate change to mounting pollution concerns, we simply cannot afford to keep doing things the same way and hope that our problems solve themselves. We need action and this bill is one that can substantially alleviate statewide pollution problems at a low cost, with alternatives readily available, virtually overnight.”

The bill is part of a growing movement to find alternatives to single-use plastics. San Francisco became the first municipality to enact such a ban in 2007, eventually followed by the State of California passing the first statewide ban in 2014. Hawaii has a near-statewide ban on plastic bags and New York became the third state to enact a similar ban earlier this year.

In Delaware, legislators passed a 2009 bill (HB 15, 145th GA) “to encourage the use of reusable bags by consumers and retailers and to reduce the consumption of limited use plastic carryout bags that require massive quantities of oil, cause countless pollution, and, as such bags decompose, are harmful to the health of the environment and humans.” The bill also required grocery stores to establish an at-store recycling program for plastic bags – a requirement still in place today.

HB 130, under consideration a full decade later, pushes Delaware one step further toward addressing plastic pollution.

“Our over-reliance on plastic bags is killing the environment, and it’s time for Delaware to take a stand. By passing House Bill 130, we will limit the use of plastic bags at large retailers, which is a huge step forward to cleaning up our communities and watersheds,” said House prime sponsor Rep. Gerald Brady, D-Wilmington West. “The environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags are alarming, so it’s critical we take steps now to mitigate the long-term costs before our ecosystem further deteriorates.”

Most other plastic bags will be spared under the bill, including plastic produce bags, plastic bags used for deli and seafood products, and other plastics commonly used in stores.

House Amendment 1, an amendment added before the bill arrived in the Senate, adds a provision allowing municipalities with populations of 50,000 or more to enact their own plastic bag bans on stores far smaller than those covered by the statewide bill.

The legislation now heads to the governor for signature. If signed, it will go into effect on January 1, 2021.