Delaware lawmakers are pushing to further restrict single-use plastics with two bills that would bar businesses from offering certain plastic items and make the state’s existing carryout plastic bag ban applicable to all stores, regardless of size.
Democratic lawmakers expanded on Delaware’s carryout plastic bag ban with House Bill 212, which effectively prohibits all stores from offering any plastic bags at the point of sale. The House of Representatives greenlighted the bill Wednesday.
Sponsored by Rep. Gerald Brady(D-Wilmington), HB212 closes a supposed loophole in Delaware’s current plastic bag ban. That law, which passed in 2019, allowed retailers to offer paper, cloth or thicker plastic bags that could be reused.
[caption id="attachment_212620" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Reusable cloth and woven bags will replace thicker plastics in an aim to reduce plastic usage.| PHOTO FROM ADOBE STOCK[/caption]
Representatives who support HB212 said it “didn’t make sense” for stores to offer thicker bags since the law’s purpose is to wean Delaware from plastic items.
“Shortly after the law went into effect, some stores simply switched to slightly thicker plastic bags, undermining the goal of reducing plastic bag litter and pollution in Delaware,” House Democrats said in a recent statement.
Under HB212, reusable bags can be made of cloth or other durable fabric that has stitched handles.
Plastic bags used for pet waste, food packaging, plants, live animals like fish and transporting caustic chemicals remain exempt from the ban.
HB212 would also amend the current ban to include all stores. The 2019 law, which was also sponsored by Brady, previously only applied to retailers with more than 7,000 square feet or that had three or more locations.
If passed, the bill would go into effect July 1, 2022 for all stores.
Brady also sponsored Senate Bill 134, which seeks to reduce polystyrene and other plastic items in restaurants and other food establishments. It would specifically prohibit them from offering single-use plastic straws (unless requested by customers), coffee and cocktail stirrers and sandwich picks. SB134 also prohibits those businesses from providing ready-to-eat food in polystyrene containers to customers.
“Moving away from non-biodegradable food containers is another critical step toward protecting our environment,” Brady said in a statement.
Brady and other sponsors of the bill stated that polystyrene, which can’t be recycled and takes hundreds of years to degrade, is also one of the most littered materials in Delaware. They cited a 2018 study of visible litter along Delaware highways that found an average of 498 pieces of polystyrene waste per mile.
“Over the past several decades, the low-cost of these products has made them very popular in our society, but, today, many low-cost alternatives exist that are less harmful,” Paradee said in a statement announcing the legislation. “As a coastal state with a vibrant tourism industry that is critical to our economy and our quality of life, we must join other states that have already banned these products and set an example for the world to follow."
HB212 awaits the Senate’s consideration and SB134 was assigned to the Senate Environment & Energy Committee in May.