Single-use plastic bags may be on their way out in Cranston.
Two members of the City Council – Ward 5 Republican Chris Paplauskas and Ward 3 Democrat John Donegan – have announced plans to submit an ordinance that would ban the use of the bags for retail purposes effective Jan. 1, 2020.
The proposal is set to be introduced as new business at the council’s Feb. 25 meeting. It would then be considered at the March 14 meeting of the council’s Ordinance Committee.
“Everywhere you look, it’s not hard to find a plastic bag,” Paplauskas said in a press release. “Stuck in a tree, along the side of a road, in our parks, along our bike paths, and in our oceans, these plastic bags are petroleum-based and do not biodegrade. They harm wild and marine life, as the plastic is mistaken for food and ingested. Less than 5 percent of plastics are recycled worldwide. Now, not later, is the time to act for future generations of Cranstonians.”
“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 in a release. “This ordinance is designed to reduce the amount of plastic that enters Cranston’s rivers, or that finds its way into wooded area, or accumulated along the bike path. More generally it will reduce the amount of garbage generated in the city. This is a step in the right direction towards making Cranston a greener city.”
If enacted, the ordinance would bring Cranston into the growing ranks of Rhode Island cities and towns to take steps aimed at curbing single-use plastic bags.
Barrington, Bristol, Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, Jamestown, New Shoreham, Tiverton, North Kingstown and South Kingstown are among the communities to have enacted bans of their own. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza last year vetoed a proposed ban in the capital city.
Legislation that would create a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags has also previously come before the General Assembly, although not during the current session.
Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-Dist. 29, Warwick) has introduced legislation this year seeking to cut back on the use of plastic straws in restaurants. Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) is a co-sponsor of that measure, which would prohibit dining establishments from providing single-use plastic straws unless a customer requested one.
In July of last year, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order aimed at reducing single-use plastics in Rhode Island. The order included the creation of a task force to study the issue.
Paplauskas has framed his proposal as a necessary step for the city.
“Times are changing,” he said in the release. “I remember not too long ago, you could smoke in restaurants – now you can’t. Most of our correspondence came through the regular mail – now it’s delivered electronically. Reducing plastic bags is just another small change that can go a long way to help our environment, and help ourselves better enjoy the community we all call home.”