There is broad agreement that single-use plastic bags and other plastic items, such as disposable straws, create environmental hazards and contribute to the pollution of treasured ecosystems and natural resources.
In recent years, the Ocean State has taken steps key steps toward reducing the amount of plastic that is used in our communities. A number of cities and towns – including Barrington, Bristol, Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, Jamestown, New Shoreham, Tiverton, North Kingstown and South Kingstown – have enacted bans on single-use plastic bags for retail checkout purposes.
Cranston may be the next municipality to join those ranks. A plastic reduction proposal from two members of the City Council, Ward 3 Democrat John Donegan and Ward 5 Republican Chris Paplauskas, was formally submitted as new business during the body’s meeting Monday and will be considered in March.
The Cranston councilmen are not alone in seeking to reduce the use of plastics locally. Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) has introduced legislation in the General Assembly seeking to cut back on the use of plastic straws in restaurants. The measure, which would prohibit dining establishments from providing single-use plastic straws unless a customer requests one, is co-sponsored by Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).
And over the summer, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order aimed at reducing single-use plastics – including bags, bottles, cups and straws – in Rhode Island and creating a task force to study the issue.
The experience of municipalities that have adopted plastic bag bans – or, in some cases, creating fees to discourage their use – shows that the disruptive effects of such measures are far less than some would suggest.
Many larger businesses, seeking to get ahead of the trend, already have alternatives prepared, such as reusable checkout bags made with recycled materials. Smaller businesses may find the switch more challenging, but in the end, consumers and businesses find ways to adapt. It is also important to note that most measures include common-sense exemptions, such as bags used for produce and other food items.
In announcing their proposal, Donegan and Paplauskas spoke of what they view as the importance of plastic reduction to the community’s future.
“Protecting our environment should never be a partisan issue … There are actions we can take at the municipal level that will have a tangible impact on our city’s environment,” Donegan said.
“Now, not later, is the time to act for future generations of Cranstonians,” Paplauskas added.
We fully agree. Taking steps to keep single-use plastic bags and other such disposable items out of the both the environment and the recycling stream will provide significant benefits for our communities and our state. Doing so will also ensure the Ocean State keeps pace with a growing national trend.
We look forward to the findings of the governor’s task force and urge state lawmakers to consider a set of common-sense plastic reduction measures for Rhode Island as a whole.