A bill banning most single-use plastic bags distributed by large stores passed the Senate June 6 by a 13-8 vote, and now awaits the governor’s signature in order for it to become law.

In May, the House approved the bill 33-7 with one absent.

House Bill 130 was introduced April 18 by Rep. Gerald Brady, D-Wilmington, to significantly reduce the number of plastic bags circulated throughout the state and the detrimental effect they have on the environment.

The bill would prohibit stores with more than 7,000 square feet of retail sales space, or chain stores with at least 3,000 square feet, from handing out “any single-use plastic carryout bag” for purchases. The law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2021. Restaurants, however, would be excluded. Also excluded are bags used to wrap meat, fish, flowers or potted plants; and bags used for live animals, chemical pesticides or placed over articles of clothing.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control would enforce the law, and a violation would result in civil penalty up to $500 for the first offense, up to $1,000 for a second offense and up to $2,000 for a third.

An amendment allowing municipalities to enact laws for stores 500 square feet or more, and another amendment removing the mention of compostable bags from the bill and encouraging people on food assistance to use reusable bags both passed with the bill.

Gov. John Carney released a statement May 14 supporting the bill. “Plastic bags are a significant source of litter in our state – stuck in trees and discarded on the side of the road,” he said. “We know that very few plastic bags are recycled and many of them end up as litter. I want to thank members of the House for their vote to pass this legislation, which will help clean up our state and give us another tool to protect our environment.”

If he signs the bill, the law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.