Plastic bag ban: How Delaware is moving closer to tougher restrictions
Lawmakers have introduced a bill to double down on plastic shopping bag restrictions, making it harder for stores to offer any sort of plastic bag at checkout.
It's in response to grocery stores and other retailers taking advantage of a so-called loophole in Delaware's single-use plastic shopping bag ban, which took effect at the start of 2021, by simply replacing the thinner single-use plastic bags with thicker ones.
Bags can be thicker than 2.25 mils, under the law.
The thicker bags can be reused, but customers don't appear to be bringing them back their second or third trip to the store. Local environmental officials and advocates say the thicker bags could actually be more harmful to the environment, depending on how few are reused.
House Bill 212 by Rep. Gerald Brady, D-Wilmington, introduced on Thursday would raise the threshold for plastic bag thickness to 10 mils. Other reusable bags that stores could offer would have to be made of a durable fabric with stitched handles.
The reusable bag would have to be made of polypropylene fabric, PET non-woven fabric, nylon, cloth, cotton, jute, hemp product or another washable fabric, according to the bill.
Paper bags would still be allowed at checkout at no cost. Environmentalists have called on Delaware to require stores charge a fee for paper bags, but that has yet to happen.
The ban only applies to larger businesses such as grocery chains and big-name retailers. But the bill would expand the ban to apply to all stores, including small businesses, starting July 2022.
In a statement, Brady said lawmakers quickly realized after the ban went into effect this year that stores were using the thicker bags, which was "in clear violation of the spirit of the bill and our intent."
"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," Brady said.
Exceptions to the ban, such as bags to clean up after dogs, dry cleaners bags or food packaging, would remain in place.
The bill adds plastic bags used by customers to package loose items such as nuts, coffee, produce or candy to the list of ones that would still be allowed under the expanded ban.
The Democrat-controlled General Assembly may try to quickly pass the bill before the end of the legislative session June 30.
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Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. Reach her at (302) 324-2281 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.