The Senate today approved legislation introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence) that would enact the Plastic Waste Reduction Act.

The legislation (2019-S 0410Aaa) is designed to reduce the use of plastic bags by retail establishments by offering 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 Rhode Island jurisdictions, including 10 local communities have already enacted similar policies to promote and encourage the use of recyclable bags, and I think it’s appropriate to be consistent throughout the state.”

Plastics that enter the marine environment break down through wave action and sunlight into smaller pieces called microplastics, which can be ingested by marine life, putting Rhode Island’s fishing industries and aquatic ecosystems at risks. The legislation also acknowledges that plastic bags and thin plastic films are the predominant contaminant of recycling loads in Rhode Island, and that single-use plastic bags have severe environmental impacts on a local and global scale.

“It’s time to ban plastic bags in Rhode Island once and for all,” said Amy Moses, Vice President and Rhode Island Director of Conservation Law Foundation. “Plastics pollute at every stage of their lives — from extracting and refining fossil fuels to contaminating our recycling and choking wildlife. The Senate President’s bill is a great compromise and it will keep Rhode Island’s lands and waters free from this toxic litter.”

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

The measure now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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