Gov. Markell signed a mandatory plastic bag recycling law on Aug. 17, making Delaware one of only three states in the nation that requires stores to promote plastic bag recycling.

Delaware has let recycling out of the bag.

Gov. Markell signed a new law on Aug. 17 that will promote recycling plastic bags in stores across the state.

The law, which goes into effect Dec. 1, requires all stores with at least 7,000 square feet of retail space or at least three Delaware locations to create an at-store recycling program for plastic bags.

Plastic bags by the numbers

1,000: the years it takes plastic bags to biodegrade

12 billion: the barrels of oil used to make the 100 million plastic bags Americans use each year

100,000: the number of sea turtle and maritime deaths annually attributed to plastic bags – the animals mistake them for food.

60: the number of bags an average family accumulates in four trips to the grocery store


Stores are also required to provide reusable bags for purchase and include a message encouraging customers to recycle their plastic bags. Restaurants are exempt.

“By encouraging Delawareans to recycle now, we can reduce pollution, preserve our natural resources and set an example for future generations,” Markell said.

Delaware is the third state to pass a mandatory plastic bag recycling program, behind California and New York.

More than one million plastic bags are used worldwide each minute, which adds up to between 500 billion and one trillion each year.

Despite their flimsy nature, plastic bags can be recycled into new products like shopping carts, decking, railings, fencing and even new bags.

The American Chemistry Council also recently announced a goal to manufacture all plastic bags with 40 percent recycled materials by 2015, which is expected to reduce waste by 300 million pounds each year.

Plastic bag recycling has increased 27 percent between 2005 and 2007, according to the ACC, and 830 million pounds of bags were recycled in 2007.