The Senate has passed a pair of bills aimed at reducing plastic waste in Rhode Island with bans on single-use plastic bags and straws. Neither bill generated more than short discussion during proceedings May 4 at Rhode Island College. Senators passed the Plastic Waste Reduction Act, targeting single-use plastic shopping bags, by a vote of 34-2. A short time later the Single-Use Plastic Straws bill, intended to block food service businesses from providing the implements unless requested by patrons, passed 36-0.
The Plastic Waste Reduction Act (S0037) sponsored by Senate President Dominick Ruggerio, D-North Providence, passed the Senate in February 2020 but was put on hold as the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic became the priority for state legislators.
A summary of findings in the bill’s text says the best interests of Rhode Island residents and visitors are served by reducing the use of plastic bags while incentivizing reusable bags. “Single-use plastic bags have severe environmental impacts on a local and global scale, including pollution of our waters, harm to marine and wildlife, greenhouse gas emissions, blocking storm drains and creating litter,” according to the bill.
The measure proposes penalties for noncompliant businesses including $100 for a first violation within a calendar year, $200 for a second and $500 for a third and for each subsequent violation. The fines would be collected and retained by the municipality where offending businesses are located.