The House passed a bill Wednesday that expands Delaware’s landmark 2019 plastic bag law and effectively end the use of plastic carryout bags in Delaware stores. House Bill 212 passed by a vote of 28-12-1, with one Democrat, Representative Sherry Dorsey Walker voting no with most Republicans, and three Republicans, Kevin Hensley, Bryan Shupe and Stephen Smyk, voting yes with almost all Democrats.
In 2019, the General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting single-use carryout plastic bags at large 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.
Since that covered Wawa, Super G, and Walgreens, three stores I go to on a daily or weekly basis, I broke down and bought 20 black canvas bags and I love them. They are so much sturdier, and bigger, so now I don’t cut off all circulation in my hands when I attempt to carry all the bags into the house at once. But I noticed something. When I would go into the Fairfax Acme, or into the Brandywine TownCenter Target, both chains were still using plastic bags, but they were much thicker plastic.
These chains exploited a loophole in the 2019 law by simply switching to slightly thicker plastic bags for customers that are no more “reusable” than the bags targeted by the law. This goes against the spirit of the bill and undermines the goal of reducing plastic bag litter and pollution in Delaware.
House Bill 212 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.
The effort to reduce single-use plastic bags follows a decade-long project to encourage residents to recycle the bags via on-site recycling receptacles at large retail stores. However, plastic carryout bags are recycled at alarmingly low rates – less than 10% – leaving more than 3.5 million tons of plastic bags to be discarded nationally each year.
In Delaware, nearly 2,400 tons of plastic bags end up in landfills annually. HB 212 would drastically reduce that amount.
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.
|House Bill 212 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Brady, Longhurst, Morrison, Lambert, Wilson-Anton, Baumbach, Bentz, Bolden, Griffith, Heffernan, K.Johnson, Kowalko|
House Passed 28-12-1. Baumbach Bennett Bentz Bolden Brady Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Heffernan K.Johnson K.Williams Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Minor-Brown Mitchell Morrison Osienski S.Moore Schwartzkopf Wilson-Anton Hensley Shupe Smyk
|Briggs King Collins D.Short Dorsey Walker Dukes Gray M.Smith Morris Postles Ramone Spiegelman (not voting) Vanderwende Yearick|
|Gay, Hansen, Paradee, Pinkney|
|Current Status —||Sent to Senate|
“Shortly after the implementation of the state’s prohibition on single-use plastic bags, we realized the law of unintended consequences was occurring. We immediately received complaints from constituents, that new, thicker plastic bags were being provided by several stores. This practice was in clear violation of the spirit of the bill and our intent,” said Rep. Gerald Brady. “Unfortunately, the thicker bags only compounded the threat on our environment. It became apparent that further steps would be required to reduce the use of plastic bags, thus protecting our ecosystem, cleaning up our communities and purifying our watersheds.
“We are taking a critical step forward toward addressing this issue and removing single-use plastic bags from our stores, which will have a measurable, positive impact on our environment.”
“It has been my pleasure to work with colleagues to finally ban plastic bags in Delaware. In 2018, in America, only 8.7% of plastics were recycled, generating 33 million tons of un-recycled plastic,” said Rep. Eric Morrison. “Plastics released into the environment degrade into micro-plastics and harmful chemicals that pollute our waterways and land, adversely impacting not just our environment but our health and the health of wildlife in the water and on the land. I am happy to see us build upon the original law and move one step closer to a plastic-free Delaware.”
“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. Valerie Longhurst. “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.”
“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, 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.