The Senate today passed a plastic bag ban introduced by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio.
The legislation (2021-S 0037) 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 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.
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.
Penalties would be $100 for the first violation in a calendar year, $200 for the second violation in a calendar year, and $500 for the third and any subsequent violation in a calendar year.
The measure now moves to the House of Representatives, where similar legislation (2021-H 5358) has been introduced by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee.
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