Should Barrington become the first town in New England to ban plastic grocery bags?
Joseph Roberts thinks so. So does the Barrington Conservation Commission.
Roberts, a Conservation Commission member, will introduce a proposal at the July Town Council meeting to ban plastic grocery bags in Barrington.
The proposal, written up as an academic “white paper” by the political science professor at Roger Williams University, has been endorsed by the Conservation Commission.
“Recycling simply does not work,” said Roberts.
His “white paper” says the recycling rate stood at 11.5 percent in 2010, citing an Environmental Protection Agency study.
“Recycling is not yet a viable option for the safe, effective disposal of these items,” Robert says. “To that end, the most effective way to limit the problem in the environment is to reduce usage by eliminating the bags from the supply chain.”
In addition to being buried for up to 1,000 yars in a landfill before they break down, plastic bags also are a major problem for wildlife on land and in the ocean, Robert said. The bags are eaten by turtles, whales, and seabirds, which chokes them or leads to starvation.
The Conservation Commission recommends that the Town Council “ban the point-of-sale use and distribution of plastic bags in all retail establishments in Barrington,” Roberts says.
Key elements of the ordinance:
- No retail store would be allowed to use the plastic bags at checkouts.
- Retail stores should make reusable bags available for purchase.
- Retail stores would be allowed to charge up to 5 cents per reusable bag.
Roberts believes the fee should be higher for the cloth and canvas reusable bags, but the point of the ordinance is to “encourage the use of reusable checkout bags.”
Fines for violators would put some teeth into the ordinance. A first violation by a retail store would result in a $150 fine. A second violation within a year would be $300. A third violation would be a $750 fine.
Roberts said he would phase in the ordinance over 6 to 12 months. He said the town should work closely with the business community to implement it.