2013-03-21 / Letters to the Editor

Banning plastic bags may boost economy

I read in the Jamestown Press on Feb. 28 that Rep. Deb Ruggiero had concerns about the recently introduced bill that would ban single-use plastic checkout bags (“Banning plastic bags statewide?”). Like Rep. Ruggiero, I agree with the premise of the bill, namely to plan for and implement the phase out of disposable plastic checkout bags by retail establishments in Rhode Island beginning in 2014.

There are numerous ways to incentivize consumers to alter their behavior.

The supermarket chain Whole Foods, which has three stores in Rhode Island, ended its use of plastic checkout bags in 2008. Inexpensive reusable bags are located prominently at every checkout counter and paper bags made from 100 percent post-consumer content are also available. Most people who shop there have gradually learned to bring their own bags.

However, we can’t expect individual retail establishments to have this same level of commitment to sustainability that Whole Foods has. We need policy coupled with a social-marketing campaign to make this happen. And in a state that prides itself on its cultural and aesthetic landscape to keep its tourist industry booming, as well as one that is blessed with ocean resources, a legislative effort to reduce plastic bags would be highly beneficial.

Also, plastic bags are not manufactured in Rhode Island so the ban wouldn’t affect a local industry.

Indeed, the ban could have the effect of creating jobs and industry. Years ago I bought a great reusable bag at Grapes & Gourmet. This bag, which I’ve used for years, is called SmartCycle and is made from recycled plastic bottles. With the high unemployment in Rhode Island, why aren’t we manufacturing, purchasing and using locally made reusable bags? Think of the opportunities passing a ban on plastic checkout bags would create for local entrepreneurs and the currently unemployed.

Not to mention the benefits a plastic-bag ban would have on our water, landfill, coast and on present and future generations. I hope Rep. Ruggiero, who is an outstanding leader in environmental conservation and protection, will work with Reps. Cimini, Ajello, Handy, Bennett and Ferri, who introduced H. 5403 (“An Act Relating to Health and Safety – Plastic Waste Reduction”) to find the best solutions.

Mary Jane Sorrentino
Green Lane

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