Brady Bill Would Limit Use of Single-Use Plastic Bags

DOVER – Plastic bags litter communities, clog stormwater systems and swirl in our waterways, causing substantial environmental distress, but legislation from Rep. Gerald Brady would significantly reduce those hazards by limiting the use of plastic bags at Delaware retailers.

Delaware already requires large retail stores to establish at-store recycling receptacles so customers can return plastic bags. Plastic carryout bags are also required to have labels that contain printed recycling messaging. However, plastic carryout bags are recycled at alarmingly low rates – less than 10 percent – leaving more than 3.5 million tons of plastic bags to be discarded annually.

HB 130, introduced Thursday, expands Delaware’s existing at-store recycling program by largely prohibiting single-use carryout plastic bags at large and chain stores.

“We cannot ignore the facts; our over-reliance on plastic bags is killing the environment, and it’s time for Delaware to take a stand. Limiting the use of plastic bags at large retailers is a huge step forward to cleaning up our communities and watersheds, and changing our shopping culture,” said Rep. 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. This is a measured, reasonable approach that will severely cut the number of plastic bags distributed throughout Delaware by focusing on large and chain retail stores.”

Under HB 130, 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 would be affected. Restaurants would be excluded. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, those stores would not be permitted to provide “any single-use plastic carryout bag” to a customer at the point of sale.

The bill includes a few, small exceptions, including: bags used to wrap meat, fish, flowers or potted plants or that contain unwrapped food items; bags that contain live animals; bags used to transport chemical pesticides; and bags placed over articles of clothing on a hanger.

“Plastic bags are a significant source of litter in our state,” said Governor John Carney. “If you’re like me, you notice these bags everywhere – stuck in trees, and on the side of the road. We know that very few of them are reused or recycled, and many end up as litter. This legislation will help clean up our state and – as we continue to invest in open space preservation across Delaware – give us one more tool to protect our environment. I’m proud to support Representative Brady and thank him for his partnership on this issue.”

California and most recently New York have enacted statewide bans on single-use plastic bags, with Hawaii’s most populous counties prohibiting non-biodegradable plastic bags at checkout as well. Major cities such as Boston, Chicago and Seattle have also enacted similar reforms.

“Businesses are understandably going to choose a low-cost option when they provide their customers with free carryout bags,” said Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, the bill’s prime sponsor in the Senate. “That's why it’s up to us to take action when that option ends up costing society at large. After 40 years of widespread use, it is clear the plastic bag experiment has failed and the time to intervene has arrived."

The legislation also encourages retailers to make reusable or paper bags available, specifically at no cost for customers enrolled in the Delaware Food Stamp Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Women, Infants and Children program.

“This legislation has been 10 years in the making, and is a step forward to preserving Delaware’s environment for years to come. Plastic particles are toxic, hurting wildlife, our natural resources and society at large,” said Dee Durham, co-founder of Plastic Free Delaware. “Today we can celebrate a step forward in reducing our reliance on plastic bags and making substantial changes here in Delaware.”

“Given the environmental challenges we face, individuals can often times feel overwhelmed with the issues and uncertain in how they can be part of the solution. As an average American family goes through six plastic bags a week, which with over 300 million people, equates to 1.8 billion bags that are used and discarded on a weekly basis,” said Delaware Nature Society Director of Advocacy Brenna Goggin. “Banning single-use plastic bags will promote the use of more environmentally sound alternatives and provide an avenue for everyone to make Earth Day every day.”

HB 130 will be assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee.