PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island lawmakers have approved legislation that would ban single-use plastic bags statewide.
The bill, sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, would ban the use of single-use plastic bags at checkout counters, requiring businesses to instead place purchased items in recyclable paper bags or reusable bags brought in by the customer.
“We all know how dangerous plastic pollution is to the health of our oceans and marine life, and how it contributes to climate change,” Ruggerio said. “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.”
Rhode Island retailers that don’t comply with the proposed ban would be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense and $500 for the third and any subsequent offenses. The legislation states that those penalties reset each year.
“I am the representative from two coastal communities and we have seen firsthand the damage that plastic bags do to our oceans and environment for many years now,” Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee said. “In Rhode Island, we throw away approximately 26,000 tons of plastic bags and plastic film every year. When you think about how little plastic bags weigh, this is a staggering amount of waste that needs to be eliminated in our state.”
The ban would take effect by Jan. 1, 2024 or within one year of the establishment of regulations by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, whichever comes first.
Seventeen Rhode Island communities have enacted single-use plastic bag bans in recent years, including Cranston, Newport and Providence. The first community to do so was Barrington, which banned plastic bags back in 2019.
The legislation now heads to Gov. Dan McKee’s desk for his signature. It’s unclear at this time whether he plans to sign it.