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Legislation will charge customers for plastic bags

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Delaware Public Media
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A new bill could require Delawareans to pay a fee if they don’t use a reusable bag while shopping.

Sponsored by House Minority Whip Deborah Hudson (R-Fairthorne), the proposal is still in a draft phase and a final rate that consumers would be charged hasn’t been set.

However, the stores themselves would keep any money, with the hope that they would put some of it toward collaborative conservation efforts, according to Hudson.

She says she plans to phase in the program should lawmakers sign off on the bill.

“These bags are just overused considering that they don’t break down and so we just have to stop doing it and if we have to [implement this law] in small steps, that’s the best we can do,” Hudson said.

Research is disputed on how long it takes plastic bags to decompose, ranging from a few decades to a thousand years.

The catalyst for drafting the bill, Hudson says, partially came from her grandchild.

“I’m a grandmother, so I have started to look about things in a different way into the future and what life will be like when my two-and-a-half-year-old is older and there will be so many changes.”

Right now, Delaware requires larger stores to run recycling programs for those bags. Several municipalities – including Washington, D.C. charge a fee for the bags.

California was the first state to enact a full ban last year, taking effect July 1.

Hawaii has a de facto state ban, with counties rejecting non-biodegradable bags and paper bags using less than 40 percent recycled materials according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Drafting the legislation is ongoing, with talks including the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Delaware chapter of the Sierra Club, Delaware Nature Society and Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation Institute.

Hudson says she plans to introduce the bill next week.