BringYourOwnBag Delaware

NOTICE: The next step for House Bill 202 is a hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee.   This is now scheduled for May 4th at 4 p.m. in the House hearing room.  Please plan to attend and speak on behalf of HB202.  If you cannot attend, please call or email your state House member to ask for their support.

Most Commonly Asked Questions Re: House Bill 202

I don’t like the idea of charging customers
A negligible fee is the fairer, more progressive way to go (instead of an outright ban on plastic bags), giving people a choice if they need a bag.  Bag fees have been implemented successfully all around the globe, including Washington D.C., Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland.  Walmart Canada is now doing it voluntarily following the release of the recent United Nations report on the dire facts of plastic pollution.  Aldi and Save-A-Lot in Delaware do it voluntarily. A negligible fee simply externalizes the cost of the bag to the consumer and raises awareness about the issues involved in their use.  A very small fee encourages behavior change and greater awareness.

Who keeps the fee? Why doesn’t it go to the State?
In crafting House Bill 202 options were explored including the funds going to DNREC or the RPAC for its recycling grant fund.  However, this would make it a tax and require a super majority to pass in each chamber of the legislature – a high hurdle indeed.  Additionally, the same large retailers impacted by HB202 are currently required by law (passed in 2009) to manage the plastic bag and film recycling program, provide bins and signage and deal with the recycling of plastic bags – a program that is an expense to them as the market for sale of plastic film has dried up.  These retailers used to be able to market the collected plastic for about $120/ton.  That market has crashed and now they can only get about $20/ton, but management of the program costs them far more in labor, storage and transportation costs.  The large retailers who would fall under this new updated law would not reap huge profits – the number of bags used is expected to drop between 65-90% based on the experience of Washington D.C. and European countries which have implemented similar laws.

Delaware would be the first state to do this?!
If DE passes and enacts this law this session (by June30th, effective December) it WOULD be the First State to enact and implement such a law.  We could then claim that Delaware was a leader in this important issue!! HOWEVER, please note, Hawaii has already done this by County law in all of its counties.  California did pass a state law, but it is on hold pending a November election referendum.  Additionally, MANY MANY counties and cities and countries all around the world, on six continents have already passed such laws.  It is estimated that more than 54% of the world’s population is now covered under similar laws.

Why is there not an exemption for low income shoppers?
The plastic bag issue with bags and film polluting our environment and communities, and toxins in our water and food chain, is one shared by all.  We are all responsible and we all need to change our behavior.  Reusable bags are quite often given away by retailers, banks and non-profits and organizations such as BringYourOwnBag Delaware and the Kenny Family Foundation continue to do reusable bag giveaways leading up to the implementation of the bill. Delaware grocery stores including ALDI and Save-A-Lot already charge all their customers for plastic bags, as does Walmart Canada.

The concern that there be an exemption for low income shoppers was addressed eloquently by Wilmington City Council President, Theo Gregory, when he said at a Council meeting when the City unanimously endorsed HB202, “ALL people live on this planet, and ALL should learn to care for this earth and their communities.  It seems the only people who raise the need for a low income exemption are wealthier people. Corporations and events and nonprofits are constantly giving away free reusable bags – I have ten in my car right now that I largely got for free!”  The Washington D.C. legislation implemented in 2009 does not contain an exemption for low income residents.

 Not another tax?!
The five cent fee is not a tax because consumers have a CHOICE.  They can choose to pay five cents per bag or to not use a bag or use reusable bags.  Currently, consumers are paying for bags hidden in the cost of their goods whether they use bags or not.  This bill levels the playing field and creates a fairer approach – those who need the bags, pay for them.  Those who don’t need the single-use bags, don’t pay for them.  Additionally, reusable bags are quite often given away by retailers, banks and non-profits and organizations such as BringYourOwnBag Delaware and the Kenny Family Foundation continue to do reusable bag giveaways leading up to the implementation of the bill. 
In addition, taxpayers would save money in reduced costs in storm water system cleanup and litter control.

Shouldn’t this start at the local level?
In 2014, representatives for the large retailer testified at a Senate hearing that they would prefer a statewide approach, thereby leveling the playing field and avoiding a scattered array of various laws around the state which would be difficult to manage.  In addition, local regulation might lead to lost business as consumers take their shopping just across the municipal boundaries.  Additionally, current state law actually prohibits local governments from enacting fees on plastic bags.  Delaware is small enough whereby a state approach makes sense.  It could be the first state to pass and implement such a law – appropriately living up to its tag line as The First State!

Advocacy is not a Four Letter Word!

You CAN make a difference!

 You can make a difference by writing or calling the committee Chair, Rep. Debra Heffernan and encouraging her support to pass HB202.  The addresses are below.  Attending the hearing in Dover on May 4th would be even more fabulous! 

Representative Debra Heffernan
113 Blue Rock Road
Wilmington, DE 19809

Key points:
 The facts are in!  “Disposable” plastic bags:

  • blight our neighborhoods
  • detract from tourism
  • kill marine and farm animals, damages marine habitat
  • clog storm water management systems ($$$)
  • waste taxpayer funds (cleanup)
  • waste non-renewable resources (oil and gas in production and transportation)
  • create more air pollution (production and transportation)
  • and photodegrade into toxic particles which end up in our own food chain. 

Thank you again for your commitment to protecting our planet.  Every voice makes a difference!!Type your paragraph here.


Introduced in late June 2015, House Bill 202 in Delaware proposes to expand upon the existing at-store recycling program regarding the use of single-use plastic bags. The current law requiring larger retailers to have recycling containers for plastic bags and film will continue, however the larger stores subject to this program (more than 7,000 sq.ft or three or more locations of 3,000 sq.ft. each) would be required to charge 5 cents for every single use carryout bag that is provided to customers. This includes paper and plastic, so the public would be encouraged to shift to reusable bags.  The purpose of the bill is to clean up our communities and watersheds, reduce storm water and trash management costs to taxpayers, and promote the health and safety of watersheds and wildlife.

This bipartisan bill (current sponsors and co-sponsors include Representatives Hudson, Brady, Mulrooney, Baumbach, Bentz, Bolden, Jacques, Kowalko,  S. Lynn, Mitchell, Paradee, D. Short,   K. Williams, and Senators McDowell, Cloutier) would become effective on December 2, 2016.

CLICK HERE to find your state Senator and Representativeand write or call and ask them to support passage of House Bill 202 so that Delaware  can live up to its billing as the First State in the nation to pass and enact such a law (following many other countries, counties and cities).

Helpful FACT SHEET found here.