Plastic bag ban: Delaware stores find 'loophole.' Officials seek crackdown.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the allowed thickness of plastic bags in Delaware. Bags can be thicker than 2.25 mils, and Democrats want to introduce a bill to ban bags less than 10 mils.
After banning plastic shopping bags at the start of this year, Delaware lawmakers have pledged to create more restrictions after stores have started to use thicker plastic bags instead of paper or cloth bags as intended.
In 2019, lawmakers put a ban on plastic shopping bags found at checkouts. The measure went into effect Jan. 1 of this year. It was meant to encourage larger stores and shoppers to switch to reusable bags in order to curb environmental waste.
While stores appear to have complied, many have also found what critics call a "loophole" in the law by simply replacing the thin plastic bags with thicker ones.
It is legal under the ban, which allows plastic shopping bags that are thicker than 2.25 mils.
Officials had hoped the restriction would encourage shoppers to reuse those thicker bags after getting them at checkout. But shoppers don't appear to be remembering to bring the thicker bags back to their next trips to the store, and many stores have supplied them at checkout just like they did the thinner bags.
Rep. Gerald Brady, D-Wilmington, plans to introduce a bill to ban shopping bags under 10 mils of thickness with some exemptions depending on reusability.
"It’s frustrating that some businesses have chosen to exploit a loophole that runs counter to the spirit of (the ban)," Brady said in a statement.
Brady said he plans to file the bill in the coming weeks. The General Assembly is in session until June 30. After that, lawmakers go on a six-month break.
Depending on how often they are reused, the thicker bags could be worse because they create more plastic waste, according to state Department of Natural Resources secretary Shawn Garvin.
"I think it just ends up becoming an issue of convenience," Garvin said.
Like the thinner bags, these bags also cannot be recycled at home. Shoppers can return them to a store that has in-store recycling, but it's easy to forget that service even exists.
The ban still allows Delaware to use several types of other plastic bags, such as newspaper delivery bags or garbage bags. Paper bags are also still allowed at checkout.
In 2019, lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to piggyback off of the effort to ban plastic bags with a proposed paper bag ban, arguing that paper bag manufacturing is also harmful to the environment.
Rep. Michael Smith, R-Pike Creek, who spearheaded the paper bag bill in 2019, said he will not be pushing for it again this year because he expects Democrats to address it with their bill.
A spokesman for Brady did not confirm if a paper bag ban would be part of this year's bill, but did say that lawmakers are considering it.
The ban does not apply to small businesses.
Rather, the store either has to be 7,000 square feet or bigger or, if there are three or more Delaware locations, each has to be at least 3,000 square feet.
It applies to stores such as 7-Eleven, Acme, CVS, Food Lion, Giant, Janssens, Walgreens, Redners Markets, Rite Aid, SaveALot, SuperValu, Safeway, ShopRite, Wawa, Weiss Markets, Macy's, Home Depot, Big Lots, Five Below, Famous Footwear, Nordstrom and Party City, based on the law's requirements about store size and number of locations.
FIGHT OVER POLICE TRANSPARENCY:Why Delaware police are pushing back on transparency, accountability plan in General Assembly
DEMOCRATS QUIETLY DRAFT POLICE BILL:Democrats drafting bill to end police secrecy in Delaware ahead of task force opinion
Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online/The News Journal. Reach her at (302) 324-2281 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.