Tonight the Providence City Council passed the Retail Plastic Bag Reduction Act which will now be sent to Mayor Jorge O. Elorza for his signature.
“I started working on this legislative initiative as a freshman Councilwoman, and that it receives its final passage today of all days is serendipitous,” stated Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan, Councilwoman – Ward Five. “Tonight’s meeting falling on Earth Day was not planned by the Council, but it seems very fitting that today we celebrate the Earth and renew our dedication to the fight for its care in our own way with the passage of this legislation.”
Ryan continued, “This is not a silver bullet, but it is a big first-step in making Providence a cleaner and greener city for all to enjoy. We have some big hurdles ahead of us, including the projected closure of the Johnston Landfill in 15-years and the projected closing of the Tiverton Landfill on November 30, 2020. This is a tipping point for us as a city and a state. I urge my colleagues in the General Assembly to work to mitigate the issues surrounding single-use plastics so that we can address these issues head-on. Plastics not only pollute or waterways and our natural areas, but there are several studies that show that plastics can lead to serious health issues. The time is now for us to act. Happy Earth Day!”
The ordinance requires that the City present a comprehensive implementation plan within 60 days of passage, along with quarterly progress reports from the City‘s Director of the Office of Sustainability, and will involve a host of community partners to help with education, outreach and implementation.
The legislation calls upon the City to work with its partners such as the Providence School Department, Providence Community Library, Providence Libraries, community organizations, business stakeholders, its waste hauler, vendors and the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation among others as part of a comprehensive education, outreach and implementation plan.
It becomes effective six-month after final passage. During this time, the City’s Office of Sustainability will work to educate residents and business owners on the plastic checkout bag reduction plan. This period will also allow businesses to use their remaining stock of plastic checkout bags.
Highlights of the Ordinance:
- All checkout bags must be designed for multiple reuse or be paper. If the checkout bag is plastic, it must be made from 100% recycled plastic. Paper bags must be 100% recyclable and made from at least 40% recycled paper.
- It exempts certain types of plastic bags such as dry cleaning or laundry bags, bags used to wrap or contain frozen foods or prevent or contain moisture, etc.
- It gives six-months from passage for businesses to become compliant allowing time for education/outreach and for retailers to use existing stock.
- It provides an exemption for retailers who may have a hardship determined by the Director of the Office of Sustainability. And provides a warning prior to any fine for non-compliant retailers.
Some facts on the environmental impacts of plastic checkout bags:
- Plastic checkout bags are used for a very short time but live for about one thousand years.
- Plastic checkout bag production produces over 2.5 thousand metric tons of CO2 (carbon dioxide) annually and contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming.
- Plastic checkout bags end up in the ocean, breaking down into smaller pieces called microplastics, Clean Water Action found a high concentration of these microplastics in the Bay. Microplastic particles from plastic bags pose threats to human health and to the local economy by exposing our food sources to synthetic materials and toxins.
- It is estimated that over 95 million plastic checkout bags are used annually in Providence.
- Plastic checkout bags account for roughly 60 tons of garbage.
- Plastic checkout bags are NOT recyclable in our single stream RIRRC’s recycling facility.
- Plastic checkout bags are the cause of contamination of our recycling bins and compromise our recycling program.