In order to improve the health and welfare of animals, humans, our communities and our environment, we aim to eliminate the scourge of plastic pollution and to build a culture of zero waste in Delaware through educational programs, awareness building, and policy initiatives.
Since being founded in 2010 with a focus on addressing single-use plastic bags, Plastic Free Delaware’s (PFD) expanded mission has grown into seeking to eliminate the scourge of plastic pollution and build a culture of zero waste in Delaware through educational programs, awareness building, and policy initiatives, in order to improve the health and welfare of humans, animals, our communities, and our environment.
In 2010, the Brandywine Sprouts, a Delaware Roots & Shoots youth chapter out of the Jane Goodall Institute, was inspired to take action regarding the single-use plastic bags which littered our communities and coasts, harming marine animals and birds. The Roots & Shoots program out of the Jane Goodall Institute is about making positive change happen—for our communities, for animals and for the environment. Roots & Shoots is made up of tens of thousands of young people in almost 100 countries, where the network connects youth of all ages who share a desire to create a better world. Young people identify problems in their communities and take action. Through service projects in youth-led campaigns, Roots & Shoots members are making a difference across the globe.
Single-use plastic bags blight communities, enter watersheds and marine environments, are consumed by animals with tragic results, put toxins in our food chain, and contribute to climate change by needlessly perpetuating the oil and natural gas extraction and refinery industries, including fracking here in the U.S. BringYourOwnBag (BYOB) Delaware was launched to undertake educational outreach, awareness building, and policy change to address the issue of plastic bag pollution. In June 2019, with passage of House Bill 130, due to PFD's commitment and efforts, Delaware became the fourth state in the U.S. to pass a law banning single-use plastic bags, thereby fulfilling PFD's founding mission.
Even before HB130’s passage, BringYourOwnBag matured into Plastic Free Delaware as the organization began to address other plastic pollution issues beyond just single-use plastic bags. PFD's mission expanded to include all single-use plastic including straws, balloon releases, expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam), and bottles, and the mission expanded into the broader realm of cultivating a “zero waste” culture (Zero Waste First State). No longer the Brandywine Sprouts and their "done-in-a-day" project (which took almost a decade), PFD has evolved into a well-respected, statewide organization with a solid volunteer corps, programs and partners.
Operated initially under a fiscal sponsorship, in 2020 PFD became a standalone 501(c)(3) nonprofit. To date, PFD remains an all-volunteer corps, and the only organization in Delaware laser-focused on addressing the root causes of plastic pollution and securing a zero waste future. Early on, PFD formed and continues to lead the Delaware Plastic Pollution Action Coalition which includes other environmental organizations and stakeholder groups that work together to catalyze the collective power of advocacy on related policy initiatives.
In addition to classroom visits, tabling and exhibiting opportunities, talking to groups large and small up and down the state, our educational programs have included a Guinness Book of World Records world’s largest plastic bag ball project, outreach to Delaware’s restaurateurs which led to more than 100 restaurants voluntarily offering straws-by-request only, and a reusable bag sewing project using fabric remnants and providing handmade shopping bags to food banks and others least likely to be able to afford to their own reusable bags. With Covid-19 curtailing in-person outreach and educational programs, PFD initiated a monthly webinar series on various plastic pollution and zero waste issues which has been well received and will continue “post Covid”. School visits, festival and conference tabling, film screenings, presentations, and reusable bag giveaways are beginning to gear up again as the Covid concern abates.
Significant policy achievements to date include:
Director of the City of Wilmington’s Public Works Department, Kelly Williams, recently reported that the plastic bag law which went into effect on January 1, 2021, has been the most impactful policy change ever in the City regarding trash reduction. “We have witnessed a huge decrease in the number of plastic bags littering Wilmington’s streets, caught in the trees, and clogging our wastewater and stormwater systems, and so we greatly appreciate the work of Plastic Free Delaware.”
Grounded in its founding as a youth group project, and recognizing the power of youth in advocacy successes, in 2020 PFD launched YES!, the Delaware Youth Environmental Summit, to engage, inspire and encourage Delaware’s high school students to become active in making a difference regarding environmental issues. More than 270 high school students and teacher-advisors attended in 2020 and 2021. Planning is now well underway for the third annual summit in February 2022. Student leaders involved in YES! are already having impact beyond the Summit, being invited to speaking engagements at climate change rallies, legislative hearings and other events.
With significant successes under our belt and momentum building, PFD has its sights set on continuing to grow its base of support and corps of advocates, expanding programs to educate the public and decision-makers, and achieving additional policy objectives, including e-waste and extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation, expanding opportunities for composting in order to reduce food waste (which is 36% of Delaware’s landfill material), truth in labeling legislation, a green procurement policy in New Castle County to encourage the purchase of recycled and/or compostable content whenever possible, and undertaking a study on plastics and non-compostables in Delaware’s wastewater systems in partnership with Delaware’s local governments, the University of Delaware and Delaware Sea Grant.
We welcome you to join us!