2018-04-19 / News

Plastic bag ban goes into effect Sunday

Businesses in town will be prohibited from offering plastic bags at the point of sale starting Sunday.

The ban, which was approved in September, was delayed so that businesses could dwindle their inventory. The councilors decided to enact the ordinance at a symbolic time, Earth Day. According to the language, “the production, use and disposal of plastic checkout bags, which are commonly not recycled, have significant detrimental impacts on the environment.” Prohibiting this practice “is necessary to protect the environment and the public health, safety and welfare” of Jamestown residents, the ordinance reads.

Calvert Place resident Susan Maffie Plowden led the charge for prohibition. She said the non-biodegradable bags clog storm drains, harm marine life and pollute the coastline.

“We use plastic bags for an average of 12 minutes,” she said, “but they last up to 1,000 years.”

To campaign for the ban, Plowden lobbied Dave McLaughlin, executive director of Clean Ocean Access. As head of the grassroots environmental watchdog in Middletown, He was instrumental in passing plastic bag bans in six other coastal communities, including Barrington, Newport, Middletown, Block Island, Portsmouth and Bristol.

“All the plastic that we ever created is still with us today,” he said.

While the ordinance allows paper bags and thicker plastic, the spirit isn’t to switch from standard plastic bags to those products, McLaughlin said. He wants this law to influence a change of behavior in which residents bring their own reusable bags when they shop.

While businesses will be prohibited from offering plastic bags starting Sunday, the ordinance does have exemptions. The bags are not banned from farm stands, farmers markets, yard sales and charity drives.

Moreover, plastic is allowed at businesses for certain items, including bags for vegetables, dry-cleaning, newspapers, prescription drugs, flowers and pastries.

Town Administrator Andy Nota has the authority to grant hardship variances without council approval. The fine for using banned bags is $150 per day following a written warning.

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