Delaware moves to limit plastic grocery bag use

    Delaware gets a little greener with a new state law aimed at turning the spotlight on plastic grocery bags.

    A new Delaware law takes another step in turning the first state greener by cutting back on the use of plastic grocery bags.

    Governor Jack Markell signed House Bill 15 into law Monday.

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    It requires food stores bigger than 7 thousand square feet or with more than three outlets to provide a place, in store, for customers to recycle plastic bags. Those stores must also make reusable bags available for purchase.

    Markell calls it “another tool in the toolbox” of bolstering recycling efforts and “to advance where energy and the environment intersect.”

    The head of Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Collin O’Mara says the law works in two ways. “The first one is environmental impact, which will clean up our streams and waterways, and also just reduce litter on our highways.” O’Mara said. “The second one is the economics, and is really helping people save a little money by not using bags.  It saves the grocers by not having to buy as many bags. And it increases recycling at the same time.”

    Democratic State Representative Valerie Longhust of Bear sponsored HB 15, which started as an effort to ban plastic bags altogether two years ago.

    “The environmentalists wanted me to ban them outright.” said Longhurst.  ” Then you had the retail people saying we’ve got to meet in the middle.  So, I had to take both people and kind of bring them together and say this is what’s best for Delaware at this point.  You do have to take small steps before you take that big leap.”

    That leap has been taken by a number of countries in Europe and some U.S. cities, like San Francisco.  Philadelphia voted down a plastic bag ban in June.

    Longhurst would still like to see a plastic bag ban, and feels Delaware is headed in that direction. “I see everyday more and more people at the grocery store using canvas bags and I think once we take that leap, people will be more accustom to it and it will fly through a little bit easier.” Longhurst said.

    Stores subject to the new law have until December of 2010 to fully comply or face fines.  The fines will start at 500 dollars for a first offense and go as high as two thousand dollars for three or more offenses.


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