The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control reminds retail shoppers in the state their options are soon to change for packaging groceries and consumer goods. Starting July 1, retail stores in Delaware – all retail stores except restaurants – will no longer provide plastic bags at checkout. An updated plastic bag ban, passed by the Delaware General Assembly in 2021, expands the 2019 plastic bag ban to include all retail stores (with restaurants again the exception) regardless of size, and bans the distribution or sale of all plastic film carryout bags at checkout.
Under Delaware’s 2019 plastic bag ban, the law allowed 2.25 millimeter-thick plastic film bags to be considered reusable. Last June, the legislature enhanced the state’s plastic bag ban to include all plastic film carryout bags regardless of thickness. Starting July 1, retailers can choose to offer paper bags, or reusable bags made from cloth or other durable fabric with stitched handles. The law also allows retail stores to charge customers for these bags at checkout.
DNREC encourages the use of the cloth or fabric bags brought by customers to businesses where they shop, while advising that these reusable bags should be washed or cleaned after each use by turning them inside out and wiping them down with a cleaning agent or disinfectant.
The goal of the enhanced bag ban is to reduce roadside, waterway and seaside litter; to save valuable landfill space; to increase recycling efforts; and to help recycling facilities avoid delays when plastic bags get stuck in their machinery.
”Prior to the enactment of this law in 2019, it was estimated that each Delawarean used approximately 434 plastic bags each year, many of which wound up as waste in our landfills,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “By realigning the legislation to further limit the use of film carryout bags, we are reducing waste that all too often ends up along on our roadway, in our waterways and along our shorelines – all detrimental to our environment including harmful effects on our wildlife and marine creatures.”
All retail stores that continue to provide exempt bags are required to maintain an At-Store Recycling program for plastic and film bags, including cereal box liners, newspaper sleeves, and single-use produce or meat and fresh seafood bags. The drop-off locations should be visible and accessible within the store. Bags that are no longer reusable or unwanted should be recycled at these locations. DNREC Division of Waste and Hazardous Substances also reminds Delawareans that plastic bags should never be placed in the bins that are part of the state’s curbside recycling program, but should instead be returned to the stores the bags came from for recycling.
Consumers and retailers can find more information about the enhanced plastic bag ban at de.gov/bags.