Barrington, R.I. -- On Wednesday evening, the Barrington Town Council held a meeting to discuss a proposed ban on plastic checkout bags in the town. Community members, stakeholders, and organizations attended the meeting to offer feedback on the proposal.
"We are excited by the support in Barrington for the proposed plastic bag ban," said Channing Jones, Program Associate with citizen-based advocacy group Environment Rhode Island. "We urge the town council to move forward with this initiative to protect the Bay and local waterways from plastic bag pollution. Nothing we use for five minutes should pollute the Bay for future generations."
Plastic bags are among the most commonly found types of marine debris in Rhode Island coastal cleanups. When plastic bags enter the marine environment, they pose a direct threat to wildlife and could remain there for hundreds of years or more. Although plastic never biodegrades, as plastic in the water slowly photodegrades into increasingly small fragments, it picks up toxic pollutants, posing a threat to filter feeders such as clams.
At its July 30 meeting, the town council voted 3 - 2 to draft an ordinance proposed by the Barrington Conservation Commission to ban the distribution of plastic shopping bags in the town. Once drafted, the ordinance will be introduced at the Town Council's September meeting before a public hearing in October. If enacted, the ordinance would ban the distribution of disposable plastic checkout bags at the point of sale.
Public comments in support of a ban on plastic checkout bags in Barrington were delivered last month to Barrington's Town Hall: a letter signed by fourteen Barrington businesses endorsing the town's proposed plastic bag ban, in addition to three hundred and forty postcard petitions signed by Barrington residents.
At Wednesday's meeting, George Tamer of Ace Hardware in Barrington spoke in favor of the bag ban proposal. Also at the meeting, Steven Sylven, a spokesman for Shaw's Supermarket, announced that the store will no longer provide plastic bags at its Barrington store. Sylven cited broad support for the proposed ban among the store's customers.
"We applaud Shaw's for taking initiative on this issue," said Jones. "The public voice in Barrington is clear. Both businesses and residents understand that, to protect the Bay for ourselves and future generations, we need to stop using disposable plastic grocery bags. A ban on plastic checkout bags in Barrington would eliminate this source of marine debris from the town."