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Paper or thicker plastic? Free or not? It’s a mixed bag

When Delaware bans single-use plastic bags at the checkout, how will you carry home purchases? Paper bags? Thicker plastic bags? Your bags?

When Delaware bans single-use plastic bags at the checkout, how will you carry home purchases? Paper bags? Thicker plastic bags? Will you pay for these bags? What about bringing your own?

Big New Castle County retailers – as listed by Food Trade News, a trade journal for the food and drug industry – were asked about their plans for when the ban starts Jan. 1.

At its core, the law applies to stores that cover at least 7,000 square feet or chains that have three or more locations of at least 3,000 square feet. The law allows for multiple exceptions, including bags for frozen foods, caustic chemicals, dry cleaning, flowers and restaurant takeout.

“All stores will suggest you bring a recyclable bag,” said Julie Miro Wenger, executive director of the Delaware Food Industry Council, the Delaware Association of Chain Drug Stores and Keep Delaware Beautiful. And if you do, “you will be asked to bag your own groceries.”

The law also allows stores to not give out any bags at all at checkout.

Stores banned from using single-use bags at checkout also must have bins to collect and recycle plastic bags. Such bins were often removed this spring, when transmission of coronavirus was misunderstood, but they’ve returned.

Here’s what to expect – as best as could be reported – at the checkout, starting Jan. 1:

Acme: “On Jan. 1, customers can expect to see both paper bags and a variety of reusable bags at checkout for a fee,” a representative said. “It is important to note that due to the current paper bag shortage and the increased consumption, Acme and Safeway [both divisions of Albertsons Companies] will no longer be able to offer paper bags for free in our stores, once the ban on plastic takes place.” 

Costco: “Costco Wholesale does not offer plastic bags at the checkout lines,” a representative said. 

CVS: “CVS Pharmacy stores in Delaware will be offering reusable plastic bags and recyclable paper bags to customers at no charge,” a representative said.

Food Lion: “In January, Food Lion stores in Delaware will remove single-use plastic bags and offer paper bags for free or reusable bags for purchase,” a representative said.

Rite Aid: “We plan to offer reusable bags that are made of recycled materials,” a spokesman said.

Safeway: “On Jan. 1, customers can expect to see both paper bags and a variety of reusable bags at checkout for a fee,” a representative said. “It is important to note that due to the current paper bag shortage and the increased consumption, Acme and Safeway [both divisions of Albertsons Companies] will no longer be able to offer paper bags for free in our stores, once the ban on plastic takes place.” 

ShopRite: “ShopRite is committed to sustainability and we encourage all our customers to ‘be the change’ and bring their own reusable bags to the store each time they grocery shop,” a representative said. “Starting Jan. 1, … customers can purchase a variety of reusable totes in store, and they will also have the option to buy a 10-cent, thicker reusable plastic bag at checkout. The bag is an inexpensive option for those who forget to bring their own reusable totes. The bags can hold more groceries than single-use bags, can be used multiple times, and cleaned with disinfectant cloths.”

Conversations with representatives from Giant, Target and Walgreen’s did not yield answers.

Representatives from BJ’s, Walmart and Wawa did not respond to repeated requests. 

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