Lawmakers approve an expansion to last year’s single use plastic bag ban.
HB 212 aims to close the loopholes found in the newly implemented prohibition.
Single use plastic bags have only been barred since January, and regulations regarding that ban are getting stricter to fulfill the spirit of the original bill.
Starting next July, plastic bags will need to be four times as thick as the current requirement to be considered reusable. Senate sponsor Kyle Evans Gay (D-Talleyville) says the goal is to remove plastic bags from the landfill, and encourage recycling them.
Gay faced fierce opposition from Republican state senators, including Gerald Hocker (R-Millsboro), who says it’s too soon to expand this legislation.
Gay responds why wait when you know something is wrong?
“And I heard some incredulity today — how can we change something that’s been going on for years," said Gay. "Well we change something that’s been going on for years because there is a policy need, there is a health need, there is a natural resources need.”
The bill also expands the definition of a fabric bag to cotton, plastic fibers or even hemp.
Delaware is the first state in the region to enact a statewide ban. Some nearby cities, such as Philadelphia and Baltimore have their own city-wide bans, but none that impact the entire state. Only seven other states nationwide have similar bans.
Gay says she hopes it becomes a model for neighboring states.
“There’s more that can be done, there’s other smart policies that we can adopt that not just protect the environment but assist consumers and assist retailers with that level of predictability in understanding what the routine is around bags at retailers and how we can continue to promote smart policy going forward,” Gay says.
Gay adds she expects further legislative discussion around bag use, including paper bags and recycling options of all types, and hopes Delaware can help convince neighboring states to enact similar statewide bans.
The bill passed 11-10, with three Democrats also opposing the bill, and heads to Gov. Carney’s desk.
Roman Battaglia is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.