Plastic bags, a retail staple conveying purchases from shoes to groceries, endanger wildlife, comprise the majority of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mass of seaborne junk — and may be banned in Rhode Island.
Barrington passed a local ban on plastic bags in October that took effect Jan. 1. Bristol is considering a ban as well, though a vote on the matter has been postponed for further study.
Rep. Maria Cimini (D-Dist. 7, Providence) is proposing her own state-wide ban of the bags, H-5403.
"With Narragansett Bay, hundreds of miles of coastline, dozens of islands, and hundreds of bodies of water including rivers, ponds, and lakes, Rhode Island faces a real threat from plastic pollution. Single-use plastic checkout bags are a primary source of this pollution, littering Rhode Island's neighborhoods, parks, and roadsides, as well as aquatic and coastal environments, posing a direct threat to wildlife and accumulating in waterways. A ban on these plastic bags is the most effective way to eliminate this source of pollution," Cimini's bill reads.
Cimini's ban is modeled on the Barrington ban, according to a report by EcoRI.org, and would start January 2014 for large retailers and January 2015 for small retailers.
The ban applies to plastic bags at checkout lines. Dry cleaning plastic bags and bags that hold produce, deli meat and flowers would be exempt. Fines range from $150 to $300 dollars. The state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) would oversee the ban. Retailers will be allowed to charge 10 cents per bag for recyclable paper bags.
Locally, a ban would apply to stores like Shaw's on Diamond Hill Road, which uses plastic bags at their checkout lines. The store also uses reuseable bags and recyclable paper bags.
Steve Sylven, external communications manager at Shaw's, said they'd prefer a state-wide ban. "Shaw’s is committed to environmental stewardship and sustainable operations, which includes reducing the use of single-use carry out bags from our stores and encouraging reusable bag use. In general, we support efforts to ban single use carry out bags and prefer the proposals should be done at the state level," Sylven said.
"We don’t generally support local bans because they can be confusing to customers who shop at more than one of our locations. It can also be a competitive issue, where we see customers simply cross over to the next town to shop," Sylven added.
Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation (RIRCC) opposes Cimini's ban, EcoRI.org reports, because it would end the state's bag recycling program, ReStore.
What do you think about a statewide ban? What about a plastic bag ban in Woonsocket? Tell us in the comments.