Rhode Island Senate Passes Plastic Bag Ban

The Rhode Island Senate today passed the Plastic Waste Reduction Act that was introduced by Senate Speaker Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).

The legislation (2022-S 2446) is designed to reduce the use of plastic bags by retail establishments by providing recyclable bag options and providing penalties for violations.

“We all know how dangerous plastic pollution is to the health of our oceans and marine life, and how it contributes to climate change,” said President Ruggerio. “Several jurisdictions in Rhode Island have already adopted similar policies to promote and encourage the use of recyclable bags, and I believe it is appropriate to be consistent across the state.”

Plastics that enter the marine environment break down under the action of waves and sunlight into small pieces called microplastics, which can be ingested by marine life, endangering fishing industries and aquatic ecosystems of Rhode Island. The legislation also recognizes that plastic bags and thin plastic films are the predominant contaminant of recycling loads in Rhode Island, and that single-use plastic bags have serious environmental impacts locally and globally.

Under the legislation, retail establishments would be prohibited from making available in restaurants any single-use plastic checkout bag or paper checkout bag that is not a recyclable paper bag or take-out paper bag.

The law would come into force within one year of the establishment of the regulations by the Department of Environmental Management or on January 1, 2024, whichever comes first.

The measure is now moving through the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2022-H 7065) was introduced by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee (D-Dist. 33, Narragansett, South Kingstown).

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Bryce K. Locke