Senate approves plastic bag ban

THE SHAW'S SUPERMARKET announced that it will no longer provide plastic bags to customers at its Barrington location.  / BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/GRAHAM BARCLAY
The R.I. Senate unanimously passed legislation to ban plastic bags on Wednesday. / BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/GRAHAM BARCLAY

PROVIDENCE – The state Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved legislation banning plastic bags statewide.

The bill, sponsored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, D-Providence, prohibits retailers from carrying single-use plastic bags or nonrecycle paper bags, replacing them with reusable cloth or plastic bags with handles. The amended version also includes recyclable cardboard boxes as an acceptable alternative, and extends the ban to grocery deliveries and in-store purchases.

The bill does not include a fee for reusable bags, an element which proved controversial when originally included in 2019 legislation.

If approved, the bill would supersede municipal plastic bag bans, which 17 of the state’s 39 municipalities have enacted.

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A separate plastic bag ban bill submitted in the House by Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, D-South Kingstown, calls for a 5-cent fee on paper bags but does not supersede local-level legislation.

Legislation in 2019 proposing a statewide plastic bag ban failed to advance out of the House Committee on Environmental and Natural Resources after passing in the Senate. The 2019 bill originally contained a 5-cent-fee on paper bags which was later removed from both House and Senate versions. The Senate version of the bill also required reusable bags to have stitched handles.

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