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.



March 27, 2019 Delaware's House & Senate pass House Concurrent Resolution 17

HCR17 recognizes the issues of plastic pollution and the role of plastic straws, and requires the Delaware Restaurant Association to report back by May 1, 2020 on voluntary efforts its members have taken to curb plastic pollution.

Sabin Lowe, a Plastic Free Delaware Board member and co-chair of the Newark Charter School Marine Science Club provided testimony before both the House and Senate in support of HCR17.   Extra special thanks to Rep. Paul Baumbach, Rep. Valerie Longhurst, and Sen. Trey Paradee for their leadership on this effort.


History of laws leading up to the present status on plastic bags in Delaware

The current status is that plastic bags and film need to be taken back to large retailers to be recycled.  This has been in place since 2009.  We can do better.  The rest of the world is leading the way.

On August 17, 2009, Delaware’s Governor Jack Markell signed a new law that was aimed at promoting the recycling of plastic bags across the state. Championed by Rep. Valerie Longhurst, the law went into effect on December 1st, 2009 and required all stores with at least 7,000 square feet of retail space or at least three Delaware locations to create an in-store recycling program for plastic bags.  Stores are also required to provide reusable bags for purchase and include a message encouraging customers to recycle their plastic bags. In this, Delaware was the third state to pass a mandatory plastic bag recycling program, behind California and New York. Unfortunately, that is where the First State's leadership ended.  No substantial reforms have been passed since to address the continuing blight of plastic bags.  Plastic bags still continue to cover our landscapes, pollute our watersheds, clog our storm water systems and our recycling facilities, causing blight in our communities, added taxpayer expense, and delay/expense in our recycling system.

2017 - House Bill 215 

Made the current law regarding recycling bins at large retailers permanent (deleted the sunset clause), and added a reporting requirement for large retailers to report annually the # of single-use carryout bags they distribute.

2015-2016 - House Bill 202  (DID NOT PASS) 

Would have placed a 5 cent fee on plastic carryout bags at large retailers.  Had widespread bipartisan support.  Passed House Natural Resources Committee unanimously.

2013 - House Bill 198 

Extended Sunset for 2009 law for three more years

2009 - House Bill 15

Created requirements for large retailers (7,000 sq.ft. or more OR 3,000 sq.ft or more IF three or more locations) to provide recycling bins for plastic carryout bags and plastic film in prominent locations, and educational signage. 


Bag Laws Elsewhere

It is estimated that more than 54% of the world's population is now covered under laws either completely banning plastic bag or laws placing fees on bags which greatly reduces their use but provides shoppers options and simply externalizes an existing cost.

In the U.S., California has passed a statewide law and Hawaii is fully covered by county laws.  Several other states are considering laws. Many other counties and cities also have laws banning or placing fees on single use plastic bags, including Washington D.C., Boston and Chicago.

HERE is a list of state and local laws in the U.S. And THIS SITE and THIS SITE also keep track of existing laws.

Map of U.S. bag laws

Map of U.S. bag laws