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Politics & Government

Lawmakers hope a revised ban on plastic bags will be more effective

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Delaware Public Media
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Delaware lawmakers are taking another crack at banning single-use plastic bags. 

The First State’s 2019 plastic bag law hasn’t done much to reduce the amount of plastic waste at checkout lines. Many retailers just made their bags thicker to satisfy a ply requirement allowing them to qualify as reusable. 

“We did not anticipate that the retailer would use a thicker bag,” said a cosponsor of the bill Rep. Gerald Brady (D-Wilmington). “Specifically because, one: it would cost them more, and two: it would be in conflict with the spirit and the intent of the law.”  

A new bill would further increase the required ply —this time from 2.25 mils to 10 mils. Brady assures this change to the law will effectively ban plastic bags. 

“They could make thicker bags to the point it would be cumbersome. It would be counterproductive,” said Brady. “You would be hauling away something of significant weight, yet its membrane would not be conducive to that type of activity.”  

HB 212 seeks to drastically reduce the nearly 2,400 tons of plastic bags that end up in Delaware landfills annually.

If it becomes law, it would take effect at the start of next year.

It also has other changes. The 2019 law only applies to stores with more than 7,000 square feet of retail space, and chain stores with three or more locations with each having at least 3,000 square feet. But the new bill would eventually apply to all stores regardless of the size starting in July of next year.

HB 212 also does more to define “reusable bag.” It requires the bag be made of a cloth or other durable fabric that has stitched handles, is designed to be used at least 125 times and has a capacity of at least four gallons.

The bill has been assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee. 

For decades, the state has tried to encourage the recycling of single-use plastic bags with recycling receptacles at Delaware’s large retail stores. But officials say only about 10 percent of bags actually end up there.

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