What you need to know about the changes

If at first you don’t succeed, try again — at least that’s Delaware’s plan to ban plastic bags.

Effective July 1, retail stores in Delaware will no longer be able to supply plastic bags of any kind to shoppers.

The new mandate is a response to stores taking advantage of loopholes in the original take-out plastic bag ban that came into effect last year. The original ban allowed plastic bags up to 2.25 millimeters thick to be considered reusable and made exceptions for businesses with a smaller footprint.

The amended law now prohibits retailers of any size from handing out plastic take-out bags. This time, the only exception is restaurants, which are still allowed to provide single-use plastic bags of any description and are not required to have an in-store recycling program.

WHY NOW:Plastic bag ban: How Delaware is getting closer to tighter restrictions

Stores may provide reusable or paper bags at checkout, as well as sell reusable bags or offer no bags at all. Reusable bags are defined as cloth carry-out bags, durable or washable cloth bags with sewn-in handles.

Why ban plastic take-out bags?

The ban aims to reduce both the negative effects on human health and the pollution of the environment. The law notes that most plastics are dumped in landfills, incinerated, or become litter in waterways and oceans. Single-use plastic bags also contribute to harming human health and well-being, as toxic plastic particles now find their way into the food chain.

Prohibited plastic bag obtained from retailer on June 8, 2022

According to legislation, plastic take-out bags are particularly difficult to recycle and can increase recycling costs when they contaminate other materials being processed for recycling or clog machines in recycling facilities.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has posted an FAQ on the ban for retailers, as well as another for consumers.

The Consumer FAQ explains that every Delawarean uses about 434 plastic bags per year, or nearly 2,400 tons of plastic bags that end up in landfills each year.

The hope is that by decreasing the number of take-out plastic bags the public uses, via the ban, much plastic waste will be reduced.

Exceptions to the ban

The new law still does not ban all types of plastic. Plastic bags typically used in stores for produce and other items can still be dispensed.

DNREC plastic bag recycling poster for plastic bags exempt from the ban

However, any retailer that provides an exempt bag is required to set up an in-store recycling area, and it must be easily accessible to customers. Exempt plastic bags include:

  • Bags used to contain or package food, such as meat, fish or coffee.
  • Produce bags used to hold fruits, nuts, vegetables or candies.
  • Dry cleaning bags.
  • Bags used to hold live animals such as fish or insects sold in pet stores.
  • Bags used to carry pesticides, drain cleaning chemicals or other caustic chemicals.
  • Plastic bags without handles used to protect a purchased item such as flowers or potted plants.
  • Plastic used to contain moisture or prevent damage or contamination when placed in a recycled paper bag or reusable grocery bag with other purchased items.

Keep forgetting your bag?

If you don’t remember to bring your reusable bags in the car or at home, here are some suggestions provided by DNREC:

  • First item on your shopping list: “Remember BAGS!”
  • When you leave the house, sing the song “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes”, replacing the words: “BAGS, Wallet, Keys & Phone”.
  • Hang your reusable bags on your front door.
  • Keep a laundry box/hamper in the trunk to store items.
  • Use a carabiner to tie your bags together, then attach them to your cart at the store.
  • If you’re only buying a few items, avoid the bag altogether.

Another DNREC suggestion for those who may have too many reusable bags – donate your extras.

They recommend giving one to a neighbor or someone waiting in line at the store or using it as a gift bag itself, making it two gifts in one.

DNREC Twitter Campaign Promoting Plastic Bag Ban Awareness

To promote awareness of the ban, DNREC is using social media and has created the hashtag #BYOBagDE (Bring Your Own Bag Delaware).

For more information, visit de.gov/bags for full details.

You can contact reporter Anitra Johnson at ajohnson@delawareonline.com. To get unlimited access to all his stories and the latest news, please subscribe.

Bryce K. Locke