Assembly Approves President Ruggerio and Rep. McEntee’s ‘Plastic Waste Reduction Act’
STATE HOUSE – The General Assembly today approved Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee’s Plastic Waste Reduction Act.
The Plastic Waste Reduction Act (2022-S 2446, 2022-H 7065A) is designed to reduce the use of plastic checkout 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. 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,” said President Ruggerio (D-Dist. 4, North Providence, Providence).
“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. 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. Plastics litter our parks, clog our rivers and oceans, and choke our wildlife. These particles end up in our soil, in our drinking water, in the food we eat and in the air we breathe. Now is the time to end this environmental and public health destruction and finally pass a statewide ban on plastic bags,” said Representative McEntee (D-Dist. 33, South Kingstown, Narragansett).
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.
The act would take effect within one year from the establishment of regulations by the Department of Environmental Management or on Jan. 1, 2024, whichever occurs first.
The legislation now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.