Delaware joined a handful of other states as a ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect Friday.
The new law, first proposed by state Rep. Gerald Brady, D-Wilmington, prevents stores with more than 7,000 square feet of retail space, or chains with three or more stores each having 3,000 square feet or more of retail space, from providing single-use plastic bags at checkout.
The law allows stores to charge customers for reusable or paper bags, but doesn’t necessarily require it.
Delaware already mandates that large retailers have at-store plastic bag recycling receptacles and that plastic bags be printed with recycling messages. Despite those measures, the state still only recycles less than 10 percent of the bags, "leaving more than 3.5 million tons of plastic bags to be discarded annually," Brady's office said in a statement announcing the law last year.
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"The environmental impacts of single-use plastic bags are alarming, so it's critical we take steps now to mitigate the long-term costs before our ecosystem further deteriorates," Brady said.
The bill does carve out exceptions for certain types of bags, including those used to wrap meat, unwrapped food or flowers. Bags that contain live animals, are used to transport chemical pesticides or are placed over clothes on hangers – think visits to the dry cleaners – are also excepted.
Delaware joins California, Hawaii and New York as states with limited plastic bag use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Cities across the country, like Boston; Boulder, Colo.; Chicago; Los Angeles; New York; Portland, Maine; San Francisco and Seattle have passed their own local legislation banning or placing fees on plastic bags.