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Bill targets single-use plastics, foam take-out containers

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A new bill has been introduced to ban single-use plastics and polystyrene foam containers in restaurants. | Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

DOVER – Seven months after the First State closed a loop hole on the strict plastic bag ban, a new bill seeks to continue waste reduction with a ban on single-use plastics and polystyrene foam containers in restaurants.

Senate Bill 51, introduced on Feb.17 by Sen. Trey Paradee (D-Dover), would prohibit foam containers, plastic straws and beverage stirrers and more from dining establishments. Customers would be provided a plastic straw only on request.

“Delaware is a coastal state where our second largest industry is tourism. We should be setting the standard that we care about our waterways, we are concerned about the condition of our beaches, and we understand how important these natural resources are to our economy,” Paradee said in a statement.

“Banning polystyrene foam containers and other single-use plastics is just the right thing to do,” he added. “It’s the right thing to do for our kids and it’s the right thing to do for the future of our planet.”

If passed, SB 51 would go in to effect on July 1, 2025. 

As drafted, SB 51 would exempt health care facilities, fire companies, and nonprofit organizations, including religious institutions, from the restrictions.

The bill also excludes single-service plastic and polystyrene foam coolers used for the processing or transportation of seafood and packaging of raw, uncooked, or butchered meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, fruits, or vegetables.

The Delaware Restaurant Association, which represents scores of restaurants throughout the state, cautioned that SB 51 would significantly impact small restaurants. Many of Delaware’s hundreds of restaurants are still recovering from labor shortages and supply chain delays triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We always opposed mandates that prohibit the use of specific consumer products or any bill that unjustly targets restaurants, specifically our smaller ethnic, mom-and-pop locations who were not able to access the government resources during the pandemic and simply cannot afford any increases in doing business,” Delaware Restaurant Association President and CEO Carrie Leishman said.

In 2019, Delaware joined states like California, New Jersey and New York in banning single-use plastic bags in stores. But when retailers started using thicker plastic bags, the Delaware legislature passed another bill to close that loophole.

That law, passed in 2021 and enacted in July 2022, specified “reusable bags” are those that are made of durable fabric and have stitched handles.

SB 51 will be heard in the Senate Environment, Energy and Transportation committee.

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