Rep. Maria Cimini, D-Providence, has sponsored a bill that would make Rhode Island the second state to ban plastic bags. The Plastic Waste Reduction Act would ban retailers from offering plastic bags at point of sale. It would not apply to “frozen-food bags, dry-cleaning bags, newspaper sleeves or bags bigger than 28 by 36 inches,” according to ecoRInews.
According to the bill, a first-time violation would result in a written warning, a second violation would produce a $150 fine and subsequent violations would cost $300.
It is the second year in a row Rhode Island’s legislature will consider such a ban. A similar bill, proposed in Rhode Island’s state senate, died in committee without reaching the floor for a vote in 2013.
According to the Brown Daily Herald, the ban, if passed, would take effect for larger retailers in January 2015 and for small businesses in January 2016. Hawaii is currently the only state with a ban on plastic bags, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.
The bill is in part due to citizen activism. According to ecoRInews:
Channing Jones, campaign director with Environment Rhode Island, led the signature drive through door-to-door canvassing and an online petition. This year, Jones submitted a petition to lawmakers with another 10,000 signatures from Rhode Island supporters of such a ban.
Environment Rhode Island was instrumental in helping pass a two-year bag ban in Barrington, which began in 2013. About 100 communities in the United States have some form of restrictions on plastic checkout bags.
Opponents to the 2013 legislation included a restaurant owner, the Rhode Island Retail Federation, American Progressive Bag Alliance and the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, which manages the Central Landfill in Johnston.
The Environment Rhode Island web site has a section devoted to the issue, including an online petition.
According to the Brown Daily Herald:
Many small retailers have already switched to paper bags, because the swap saves money, attracts free advertising or owners feel it is “the right thing to do,” Jones said. “Plastic bags are on their way out,” he said, adding that “in our experience going out and talking to individual business owners, there’s a lot of support out there.”
The bill has met opposition from organizations like the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which argues that alternatives such as increased recycling of plastic bags could offer a better solution to the environmental concerns. “American-made plastic products are the best environmental choice at check-out — for both retailers and consumers,” according to the organization’s website.