Some people keep reusable grocery bags in their cars at all times, a few stash them close to the door as a last-minute reminder, and perhaps even more people slap a hand to their forehead as they pull into the checkout lane and realize their fabric bags are still sitting in their trunk.
Starting Jan. 1, this routine conundrum will take a new shape as Delaware bans single-use plastic bags in the state’s grocery stores and other big retailers.
The ban, approved by the Delaware General Assembly in 2019, is part of the state’s effort to reduce roadside litter and bolster recycling efforts.
As signs start appearing in store windows reminding shoppers about the new law and encouraging them to keep a reusable bag handy, those in the First State have varying opinions about the ban.
While Middletown resident Karen Wood will miss reusing her plastic grocery bags as trash bags, she said, “I'll be happy if Wawa stops using plastic or bags with their name on it as I constantly am pulling them out of trees.”Debbie Olsen lives outside Greenwood, and she agreed, saying she hopes fewer plastic bags will reduce waste in landfills.
“I think it’s just going to be a lot more environmentally friendly if we all have our own bags to begin with,” she said. “I don’t have any problem with it, and I don’t see why anyone else should either.
“We were amazed,” she said, asking herself, “Do we actually waste that many bags?”Smaller stores aren't affected
The ban does not apply to small businesses. 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.What kind of bags to expect
Larger retailers that have to comply with the plastic ban can choose to offer paper bags, cloth bags or a thicker type of plastic bag that is designed to be reusable. The law allows the stores to charge a fee for the bags they provide. Safeway, for example, will discontinue all plastic bags and have paper and reusable bags for sale. The stores will no longer offer paper bags for free in the new year due to a paper bag shortage and increased consumption, said Safeway spokeswoman Beth Goldberg. Delaware’s Food Lion stores, on the other hand, will provide paper bags for free or reusable bags for purchase, said spokesman Matt Harakal.The use of paper bags sparks another parallel debate among Delawareans, some of whom ask if paper bags can also be a detriment to the environment.
Dover resident Searah Legates said it made sense when people avoided paper bags to save trees, but it is frustrating that plastic bags are now banned because people do not reuse and recycle them enough.