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Five-cent fee on plastic bags proposed

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Rep. Collins calls for trash task force

In an effort to reduce the number of errant plastic bags littering the state's streets and fields, legislators are mulling over a bill that would impose a 5-cent fee on every plastic bag provided to customers.

House Bill 202 was introduced by Rep. Deborah Hudson, R-Fairthorne, in the final days of the session last year. The bill expands upon the state's existing in-store plastic bag recycling program, which went into effect in 2009 and calls for recycling centers in any single store at least 7,000 square feet or retail chains with at least three locations. The new bill keeps the same definition of a single large retailer, but changes the wording of the smaller retailers to three 3,000-square-foot locations.

Government regulation of plastic bags is not a new thing. The Surfrider Foundation website has a list from the around the Unites States and the world of more than 200 fees and bans imposed. The earliest ban on the list is Nantucket Island's in 1990.

The same list shows most regulation is community specific and has been passed in the last five years.

If the bill were to pass, Delaware would be one of only a few states dealing with the problem at a state level. In 2009, North Carolina banned plastic bags for the Outer Banks region. In 2014, California passed the first statewide ban on plastic bags, but opponents of the legislation gathered enough signatures to force a referendum in November, meaning the ban is on hold until then.

During a recent constituent coffee, Rep. Rich Collins, R-Mills-boro, was questioned about the bill.

After the meeting, Collins said he does not support the bill because it's not comprehensive enough. Collins has introduced a House resolution creating the Delaware Anti-Dumping and Anti-Littering Task Force to address illegal dumping and littering in Delaware.

There needs to be an overall program dealing with litter, he said.

Collins said he has a problem placing new burdens on businesses without exhausting all other options available. He said he hopes his proposed task force will be able to examine those options.

Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes, was one of 12 legislators who originally co-sponsored the bill, but, he said, he removed his name this past week because after thinking about the issue, he wanted more information before made any decisions.

Lopez, who sits on the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Control Committee, said he knows trash in Sussex County is a problem, which is why, he said, he's a big supporter of Collins' proposed task force.

This bill's proposed effective date is Dec. 2, 2016. It has been assigned to the House Natural Resources Committee, which, as of Feb. 10, did not have a next meeting date scheduled.



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Original Publication Date: February 26, 2016



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