The state's new plastic bag ban law goes into effect on January 1.
This means stores will no longer be able to distribute single-use plastic bags.
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control says consumers should bring reusable bags to stores and clean/disinfect those bags between uses.
"The ban is designed to reduce beach and roadside litter, save landfill space, increase recycling efforts and help recycling facilities from having to shut down when plastic bags get stuck in the machinery," officials said.
DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said each Delaware resident uses approximately 434 plastic bags, which means nearly 2,400 tons of plastic bags end up in the state's landfills.
Single-use plastic carryout bags will no longer be available at many places you shop in #Delaware. Stores will have paper or reusable bags available at checkout, or #BringYourOwnBag. Learn more at https://t.co/mLeF2F673b. #netDE #BYOBagDE pic.twitter.com/7U524o4evb— DNREC (@YourDNREC) December 13, 2020
"A decrease by the public of plastic carryout bags can mitigate a large portion of this waste, and help our environment by reducing the amount plastic bags on our roads and waterways that can harm us and our wildlife," Garvin said.
Retailers can choose to offer paper bags, or cloth bags, or a thicker type of plastic bag that is designed to be reusable. Or stores could decide (as they always could have previously) not to provide bags to customers at all.
The law allows retail stores to charge a fee for the bags they provide at point of sale.
DNREC advises consumers to wash or disinfect their reusable bags by turning them inside out and wiping them down with a disinfecting agent after each use.
Officials explain, under the law, plastic carryout bags will no longer be available from larger stores (more than 7,000 square feet) as well as smaller stores with at least three locations in Delaware of 3,000 square feet each or more. Supermarkets and big-box stores are affected, as well as chains of convenience stores. Restaurants are not subject to the ban, nor are small stores with one or two locations.
DNREC has created a list of questions and answers to help guide retailers.
Plastic Bag Ban in Philly
For people in Philadelphia, you have a little bit longer before a bag ban takes effect.
The ban in the city has been delayed by six months.
So instead of starting on New Year's Day, it will officially go into effect July 1.
Businesses will be required to hang signage to inform customers of the ban by July 31, 2021. The prohibition of plastic bags will begin October 1, 2021.
However, the city plans on giving businesses warnings, not fines, until April 2, 2022 when it will fully enforce the ban.
"Implementation has been delayed due to the impacts of COVID-19 on the business community-particularly small businesses," city officials said.
Officials said businesses are encouraged to begin phasing out their plastic bag supply as soon as possible.
The Philadelphia ban will affect all retail establishments of all sizes in the city that make bags available for carryout items (such as food, clothing, home goods, etc.) and/or for delivery. These businesses include establishments, indoor or outdoor, where food or other products are offered to the public for sale-including supermarkets, convenience stores, shops, service stations, department stores, clothing stores, restaurants, food trucks, farmers' markets, and delivery services.
Philadelphians use about one billion plastic bags each year, according to the city.
There is no state ban in Pennsylvania.
New Jersey's Bag Ban Begins in 2022
In November, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced a ban on single-use plastic bags and paper bags starting May 2022.
Murphy said the ban is a significant step to reduce harm and pollution that these products cause to the environment.
"Plastic bags are one of the most problematic forms of garbage, leading to millions of discarded bags that stream annually into our landfills, rivers, and oceans," Murphy said on the day he signed the bill. "With today's historic bill signing, we are addressing the problem of plastic pollution head-on with solutions that will help mitigate climate change and strengthen our environment for future generations."
The New Jersey ban also includes disposable food containers and cups made out of polystyrene foam.