Cranston councilman proposes banning use of plastic bags

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CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — From Park Avenue to Garden City, hundreds of businesses in Cranston pack groceries and other merchandise into plastic bags every day.

Now, Chris Paplauskas, the majority leader on the Cranston City Council, has submitted a city ordinance proposal to ban the use of single-use plastic bags.

“About five or six years ago, we were fishing at Meshanticut Lake Park and we caught more plastic bags than we did fish,” Paplauskas said Thursday.

In announcing the proposal, Paplauskas cited an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) statistic that says more than 380 billion plastic bags are used every year in the United States.

“The plastic bag problem has been getting progressively worse,” Paplauskas said. “Something needs to be done with it to try and cut back for our environment.”

“I think it’s convenient, but I think times are changing,” he added. “You know, years ago, we used to be allowed to smoke in restaurants.”

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung issued a statement Thursday against the plan, saying:

While reducing plastics and encouraging recycling is great for our environment, I have major concerns about an outright ban on plastic bags and its impact on our business community, particularly many of the small to medium-sized owners that are fixtures in our City. We should be looking at policies that incentivize the use of reusable bags instead of adding more costs for businesses with a blanket ban.

The ordinance is set to be heard by the Cranston City Council on March 14. Paplauskas said if the ordinance passes, it would take effect immediately, but it would not be enforced until Jan. 1, 2020.

Barrington, Newport, Middletown, Jamestown, Block Island (New Shoreham), Portsmouth, Bristol, Warren, and North Kingstown have already banned the thin-film, single-use plastic bags. Bans have also been considered in Tiverton and South Kingstown.

Last year, Providence’s city council approved a plastic bag ban, but Mayor Jorge Elorza vetoed it over a requirement that would force shoppers to pay at least 10 cents per bag from retailers unless they brought a reusable bag from home. While a revised bag ban proposal went before the council in June, the city has taken no further action to date, according to Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan.

Dan McGowan contributed to this report.

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