We Did It!

First State becomes the Fourth State to Pass Ban on Bags

Dover, DE (June 6, 2019) – 

This afternoon Delaware’s State Senate passed House Bill 130 which will ban single use plastic bags as of January 1, 2021 and will join California, New York and Vermont as the states which have passed legislation to address the growing crisis of plastic pollution. Governor Carney has pledged to sign the bill into law.

House Bill 130 introduced by Representative Brady, and co-sponsored by Senator Trey Paradee, moves the existing at-store recycling program regarding the use of single-use plastic bags to a new level by actually banning the use of thin plastic bags by large retailers. The bill allows for several exceptions such as meat. The goal is to encourage a shift to to reusable bags. Additionally, the bill aims to clean up Delaware’s communities and watersheds, reduce storm water and trash management costs to taxpayers, and promote the health and safety of watersheds, wildlife and humans, and the ecosystem’s food chain.

According to Dee Durham, co-founder and co-chair of Plastic Free Delaware, an environmental group focused on education and advocacy on issues surrounding plastic pollution in Delaware, “millions of plastic bags end up as litter strewn across our communities, roadsides, parks, forests, rivers and coastlines, and clog our storm water management systems resulting in increased cleanup costs.” Additionally, Plastic Free Delaware contends that single-use plastic bags contribute a toll on human health and well-being as toxic plastic particles are now being found in the food chain.

The insidious development of a “disposable” culture is exemplified by the exponential growth in the use - and abuse - of single-use plastics. Our communities, roadsides and marine environments are choking in trash and plastic litter. It is estimated that the average American uses 500 plastic carryout bags annually. Single use plastics are made from natural gas or petroleum, a fossil fuel in limited supply with extensive environmental impacts in its extraction, production, and transportation.   

Along Delaware's coastlines, despite the current voluntary recycling law put in place in 2009, plastic carryout bags remain one of the most prevalent and pervasive types of litter found annually during the annual Coastal Cleanup which is only three hours each September.  Statistics maintained by Delaware’s Recycling Public Advisory Council indicate that the current law has not achieved its goal of shifting shoppers’ norms to reusable bags. In addition, plastic is the most prevalent item found in a 2018 study of Delaware’s roadside litter. 

Plastic Free Delaware applauds Rep. Brady and Sen. Paradee and the other legislative leaders for tackling the crisis of plastic pollution with this first step addressing single use plastic bags. 

Plastic Free Delaware is the only statewide organization focused on addressing the scourge of plastic pollution in Delaware by addressing the root causes through education, awareness building, and advocacy initiatives with a current focus on single-use plastic bags, straws, polystyrene, and balloons, for the health and benefit of animals, humans, our communities and our environment.

What's Next?

Governor Carney expected to sign bill into law in July 2019.


BringYourOwnBag Initiative

BYOB Delaware logo

Plastic Free Delaware has been focused on raising awareness about the environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags, encouraging Delawareans to switch to reusable bags, and implement policy changes to mirror laws from across the globe which address the unsustainable use of plastic bags.

Where do they go?


Do you know where to properly recycle your plastic bags and film?  NOT in your curbside bin!  They need to go back to a large retailer in Delaware (grocery stores, drug stores, etc), but were you aware, LESS THAN 10% of plastic carryout bags are reused or properly recycled?

Find out more

Recycling rate of bags & film


Despite the recycling law implemented in 2009, the rate that Delawareans recycle their plastic bags has not changed consistently for the better.

Plastic Bag Legislation


Learn more about the current law on plastic bags, the history of legislation to this point, and any proposed bills being considered.

Pending & Past Legislation



This continually growing list of organizations has endorsed a call to legislative action on plastic bags in Delaware.

See full list




Single Use Plastic Carryout Bags


Less than 10%

of plastic bags are reused or recycled.  So, more than 90% are ending up in the landfill or worse, out in our communities and environment.

Old habits must die

The first plastic sandwich bags were introduced in 1957.  Department stores started using plastic bags in the late 1970s and supermarket chains introduced the bags in the early 1980s.  So, it was not too long ago that we actually didn't even use plastic bags.  We can learn to live without them again. 

Loudest refrain?

Kid you not, the comment Plastic Free Delaware receives most often when discussing a bag ban or fee is that "but I use them for doggy duty."  

1.) see #1 above (less than 10% are reused or recycled)  

2.) Do you realize that they are not free?  Consumers are paying for these bags now, by placing a mandatory fee on them we are simply externalizing the cost and giving customers a choice.

The Facts Are In:

“Disposable” plastic bags:

  • blight our neighborhoods and natural lands and waters
  • detract from tourism
  • kill marine and farm animals, damage marine habitat
  • clog storm water management systems ($$$)
  • waste taxpayer funds (cleanup costs)
  • waste non-renewable resources (oil and gas in production and transportation)
  • pollute the air through their production and transportation
  • and photodegrade into toxic particles which end up in our own food chain. 



FAQs about single use plastic bags

Relating to legislation to reduce their use


  • After implementation of fee-based laws in Washington, D.C. and Ireland, the use of plastic shopping bags dropped 65-90%
  • Delaware’s local governments would save taxpayer dollars on unnecessary costs associated with stormwater system clogs and cleanouts as well as litter cleanups caused by plastic bags
  • Materials Recycling Facilities likewise would reduce daily delays and costs due to plastic bags which clog up material sorting equipment on a regular basis
  • Retailers would partly recoup costs associated with complying with the current law especially with the drop in market value of plastic and film, benefit from added income from plastic and paper bag sales, and elimination of rebates for reusable bags


  • Although many other countries, as well as U.S. counties and cities have taken similar action, Delaware could be the First State.  State level action would avoid a mish mash of varying local laws which are more difficult for businesses to manage as evidenced by the experience in California
  • A statewide approach levels the playing field for both retailers and consumers
  • With no plastic bag manufacturing plants in Delaware, no jobs would be lost
  • After cigarette butts, plastic bags are the second most common type of trash found each year during coastal cleanups.  In 2014’s one-day Coastal Cleanup, 2,777 plastic bags were picked up along Delaware’s 95 miles of coastline
  • The production and transportation of plastic bags represents an unsustainable and wasteful use of non-renewable resources and unnecessarily contributes more pollution and toxins to our environment.  An estimated 12 million barrels of oil (or natural gas equivalent) is used to make the 14 billion plastic bags Americans use each year, plus transportation and disposal costs
  • Countless fugitive plastic bags end up as litter strewn across our roadsides, parks, forests, rivers and coastlines, and clogging our storm water management systems resulting in hidden cleanup and health costs


  • Single use plastic carryout bags have significant impacts on marine animals including fatalities of turtles, dolphins, birds and whales[i]
  • “Disposable” bags also harm domestic animals as fugitive bags end up being ingested in hay, grains, and pastures leading to colic and injury/death


  • Plastic bags don't biodegrade, they photodegrade—breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits contaminating soil and waterways and entering into the food chain where animals and, ultimately, humans ingest those materials
  • A recent study in California and Indonesia found 28% of the fish and shellfish in markers contained plastic particles or “man-made” fiber in their guts
  • The life cycle of plastic bags threatens public health. Plastic bags do not biodegrade in the marine environment.  Instead, they photo-degrade (break down from exposure to sunlight), oxidize and physically break down from wave action.  This creates increasingly smaller particles of plastic which absorb pollutants from surrounding water.[ii]
  • Plastic particles concentrate metals, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and persistent organic pollutants, including PCBs flame retardants.  Small plastic particles in the ocean have contained concentrations of PCBs more than 1,000,000 times greater than the surrounding water.  When eaten by marine species, especially plankton, these pollutants enter the marine food web. The bioaccumulation of toxics in marine predators and commercially valuable species has far-reaching effects on human health.[iii]
  • In addition to the secondary health impacts of plastic bags that contaminate seafood, the manufacturing to production to disposing of these bags causes many health problems from respiratory illness to carcinogens.  As a large proportion of plastic bag manufacture in the U.S. relies on hydraulically-fractured natural gas, plastic bag use is linked to the environmental impacts of fracking.[iv] Due to a loophole in the 2005 Energy Policy Act, fracking is currently exempt from numerous environmental protection laws, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. 


  • Only about 7-9% of plastic bags are ever recycled or reused – the other 90%+ end up in the landfill at best, and in our communities, forests, watersheds and marine environments at worst.
  • Plastic bags were only invented in 1977 – a relatively recent and reversible – bad habit
  • An estimated 380 billion plastic bags or wraps are thrown away in the U.S. each year with an estimated 17 cents per bag in estimated cleanup and disposal costs, wasting millions of tax dollars
  • There’s no such thing as free!  When retailers give away “free” bags, their costs are passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices – and the cost of cleanup is also passed on to taxpayers. It is actually more fair to only charge those consumers who take bags from retailers, so the costs of bags are not borne by those who do not need them or choose to use reusable bags
  • Retailers testified before the Senate Natural Resources committee in 2015 that they prefer a statewide solution rather than myriad local ordinances as the latter would be difficult for retailers to track and manage across the state. Also, retailers are concerned that small coverage areas might encourage shoppers to take their business elsewhere, outside of the local ordinance area to other retailers not covered under such ordinances  
  • House Bill 15 from 2009 (Rep. Valerie Longhurst), the current law in effect regarding plastic bag recycling sunsets in December 2017, a deadline purposefully set to encourage the State to take the next, more meaningful, step in addressing these concerns.

[i] Researchers have commonly found plastic bags in the digestive tracts of dead sea turtles.   [Source: See N. Mrosovsky et al., Leatherback Turtles: The Menace of Plastic, 58 MARINE POLLUTION BULL. 287, 287-88 (2009) (noting that 37.2% of Leatherback turtle necropsies from 1968 to 2009 showed plastic in their stomachs, and plastic bags were the most commonly found item).

[ii] National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2011; O'Brine and Thompson, 2010.

[iii] Andrady, 2011; Betts, 2008; Cole et al., 2011; Derriak, 2002; Moore et al., 2001; Moore, 2008; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2011; United Nations Environment Programme, 2009; Zarfl and Matthies, 2010.

[iv] True, 2012. 



Additional Information

We, the undersigned, support statewide action to curtail the provision by retail stores of free "single-use" plastic bags and we urge statewide elected officials to pass legislation to that effect.  This action will promote the health and safety of wildlife and watersheds, reduce toxins in our food chain, protect the natural beauty of our communities, conserve our resources, and reduce trash and storm water management costs to taxpayers:

Bethany Beach Chamber of Commerce

Brandywine Sprouts, Roots & Shoots Chapter of the Jane   Goodall Institute

BringYourOwnBag Delaware

Bucktoe Creek Preserve 

Citizens’ Climate Lobby-Lower DE

Claude E. Phillips Herbarium, at DE State University

The Claymont Dust Study Team

Clean Air Council

Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred (CCOBH)

Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement 

Delaware Audubon Society

Delaware Center for Horticulture

Delaware Clean Water Action

Delaware Greenways

Delaware Interfaith Power & Light

Delaware Local Food Exchange

Delaware Nature Society

Delaware Plastic Pollution Action Coalition

Delaware Recycling Public Advisory Council (RPAC)

Delaware Riverkeeper Network

Delaware Votes for Animals

Delaware Zoological Society

Delawareans for Social and Economic Justice

Delmarva Ornithological Society

Elks Creek Watershed Association

Episcopal Diocese of Delaware

First Unitarian Universalist Church of Wilmington

Green Party Delaware

Green Sangha

Harvest Market Natural Foods

Humane Society of the United States of America

Inland Bays Foundation

The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County

League of Women Voters, Delaware

Lewes Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center

MERR Institute, Inc.

NAACP, Newark Branch

Nurses Healing Our Planet, Delaware Nurses Association

OLLI Eco Team

Old Brandywine Village

Plastic Pollution Coalition

Progressive Democrats for Delaware

Rehoboth Beach Chamber


Sierra Club, Delaware Chapter

Students for the Environment (University of Delaware)

Surfrider Foundation, Delaware Chapter

Ten Thousand Villages, Wilmington

The 5 Gyres Institute

The Nature Conservancy, Delaware Chapter

White Clay Watershed Association

Wilmington City Council

Wilmington in Transition


In the Media

Select Delaware Press Coverage of the Plastic Bag Issue 


Delaware Way, Delaware Earth Day News And Events Plus Wide Support For Single-Use Plastic Ban Legislation!

Delaware Online, Delaware might be the next state to ban plastic shopping bags

NBC 10 News, New Bill Would Restrict the Use of Plastic Bags in Delaware

WDEL, VIDEO | Plastic, single-use plastic bags targeted for partial ban in Delaware

WBOC, Delaware Eyes Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags

Delaware 105.9 FM, New bill would seriously limit plastic bag use in Delaware

Delaware Business Now, Bill aims to end retail plastic bag use by 2021

Plastic Bags Elsewhere

WHYY, What other states are doing about plastic bags — and what might happen with Pa.’s proposed ban


Delaware Public Media, Are Plastic Bag Bans Garbage?

2018-4-27 CAPE GAZETTE - NAACP Youth Explore Clean Water Issues

22017-12-7   DELAWARE PUBLIC MEDIA - With help from UD class, Lewes businesses consider alternatives for plastic bags

2016-5-4 DELAWARE PUBLIC MEDIA - Plastic Bag fee Lifted Out of Committee 

2016-4-24 NEWS JOURNAL - Guinness World Record Bag Ball

2016-3-6 WHYY Newsworks - Delaware Shoppers May Have to Pay for Plastic

2016-3-7 WDEL Delaware to consider 5 cent fee

2016-2-23 NEWS JOURNAL Wilmington City Council Supports Five Cent Fee

2016-1-22 NEWS JOURNAL Editorial - Doerffler Letter

2015-5-27 DELAWARE PUBLIC MEDIA - Legislation Will Charge Fee for Plastic Bags

2012-5-23 NEWS JOURNAL Kids Pitch: Ditch the Plastic Ba


2016 World Record Plastic Bag Ball, Wilmington Delaware


With the help of more than 16 schools, church groups and many other teams and individuals, a Guinness World Record was set for the World's Largest Plastic Bag Ball!

  • 340 pounds
  • 52,413 plastic bags collected

The event brought lots of media attention to the issue and reached thousands of students, teachers, and families on issues surround plastic pollution, recycling and caring for our Earth.