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Environmental group stands against plastic bag-use reduction bill

Rhode Island’s Clean Water Action is against a bill to reduce plastic bag usage. A state House committee had a hearing yesterday on the bill, which would require businesses to use plastic bags made of 20% recyclable material.

A ban on plastic bags would not solve the pollution problem, according to environmental activists. Photo by Kate Ter Haar.
A ban on plastic bags would not solve the pollution problem, according to environmental activists. Photo by Kate Ter Haar.

“This is a poorly written piece of public policy,” said John Berard, the director of Clean Water Action in Rhode Island. “Not only does it do nothing to solve our plastic pollution problem, but this is a bill that is written by the plastic packaging manufacturers for the plastic packaging manufacturers. It’s not an environmental bill at all, it is simply a bill that allows plastic bag distributors to do business more easily.”

Berard said that the ideal bill would encourage people to use reusable bags. The best way to do that? Ban plastic bags and put a fee on paper bags so people remember to bring their own reusable ones. That’s what California has enacted statewide. This policy incentivizes a consumer behavior switch rather than a simple switch from plastic to paper, according to Berard. He said that paper bags are more costly for businesses, while still contributing to the waste stream.

That kind of legislation hasn’t gotten traction in the State House yet, although Berard said that groups are working on it.

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