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Providence City Council passes plastic bag reduction act



The Providence City Council unanimously passed Providence City Councilor Jo-Ann Ryan  (Ward 5)’s plastic bag reduction act, which will be implemented by the City of Providence six months after the bill is signed into law by Mayor Jorge Elorza. Elorza has indicated he will sign the bill.

Upon passage, a group of environmental activists in attendance erupted into applause.

Under the act,

  • All checkout bags must be designed for multiple reuse or be paper. If the checkout bag is plastic, it must be made from 100 percent recycled plastic. Paper bags must be 100 percent recyclable and made from at least 40 percent 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.

“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,” said Ryan in a statement.

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!”

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.

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