Gov. John Carney signed legislation Monday that aims to reduce litter and improve the state’s environment.

Carney approved a state ban on single-use plastic bags, which becomes effective in January 2021.

State Rep. Gerald Brady’s bill bars certain retailers from giving the bags out at cash registers. It applies to large stores and chains with three or more locations, but exempts bags used for items like meat, fish, flowers.

Brady said the goal is encouraging the use of reusable bags.

“We minimize the adverse impact that discarded plastic has on our environment,” he said. “When I say discarded, I’m trying to emphasize the fact that much of this is human behavior.”

Stores violating the ban face a $500 penalty for a first offense. Penalties increase to $1,000 and $2,000 for subsequent offenses.

Carney said reducing plastic bags in stores will help reduce the number of bags littering the state’s roads and highways.

“Working together, elected officials, cities and towns, private individuals – we can make Delaware the wonderful, beautiful, litter-free place that we want it to be,” he said.

Carney also signed legislation sponsored by State Sen. Stephanie Hansen that creates a new dumping offense.

Hansen’s bill defines a substantial quantity of litter as more than a kitchen-sized bag of trash.

The fine for a first dumping offense is $500. A first littering offense is $50. Both require first-time violators to perform 8 hours of community service.

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