Bag-Ban Law Ready for Councilors

A draft ordinance that would ban plastic grocery and takeout bags in Barrington has been posted in Town Hall; it will be introduced at the Town Council meeting on Sept. 10.

The proposed ordinance to ban plastic grocery and takeout bags in Barrington has been posted in the Town Hall.

It includes fines of up to $300 per violation and describes how the ordinance would be enforced – either by the police department or an officer of the town manager.

The draft ordinance will be introduced at the Town Council meeting on Monday night, Sept. 10. A public hearing on the ordinance will be held on Oct. 1.

If approved by the Town Council, it would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.

The draft ordinance bans plastic bags “to improve the environment in Barrington and the health, safety and welfare of its residents by encouraging the use of reusable checkout bags.”

It encourages retailers to offer for sale reusable bags. It does not suggest a price per bag.

The ordinance would be enforced by the police department or any other department or division designated by the town manager.

A potential violation would be investigated and followed up with a written notice to the owner or manager of the retail establishment.  The notice would either be served to the owner or manager in person or by posting it in a conspicuous place of the store and sending a copy to the owner or manager.

A retail store’s owner or manager would have to respond in writing within 14 days that the violation has ended.

A second violation after the 14-day response period and within one year of the response from the retailer would lead to a $150 fine. A third violation within a year of the second and any subsequent violations would lead to a $300 fine.

A retail store owner or manager could appeal the violation in writing to the town manager within 14 days of receiving the notice of violation. The town manager could waive the violation on a “showing of good cause or undue hardship.” Good cause or undue hardship are not defined.

The draft ordinance does include six other definitions: retail sales establishment, checkout bag, plastic barrier bag, double-opening plastic bags, recyclable paper bag, and reusable bag.

Gary Morse September 06, 2012 at 12:41 PM
“to improve the environment in Barrington and the health, safety and welfare of its residents..." Let's look at the recent record of Councilors Speakman and Weymouth: Affordable housing ordinances that force the councilors personal beliefs of high density, "anti-environment" development throughout our town; Rental property tax subsidies paid by residents that force the councilors personal beliefs of "ant-environment" development throughout our town; Plastic bag bans that force the councilors personal beliefs of how to fix the town's environment; The threat of withholding town liquor licences from private clubs if the councilors personal beliefs of affirmative action in private clubs were not upheld; Was there ever a greater need for change in the town council to overturn the self serving silliness that has become our local government?
Manifold Witness September 06, 2012 at 06:28 PM
To Bill Rupp: Can you address a few more questions, please: Which Town Counselor is sponsoring the proposed ordinance? (Who signed it? Which Town Counselor will be doing the reading of his/her proposed ordinance at the introduction?) Will the proposed ordinance be posted on the Town's website so folks can read it ahead of time without having to stop in at the Town Hall? Thanks, Bill.
William Rupp (Editor) September 06, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Town Council President June Speakman signed the ordinance. It will be posted on the Barrington website with the Town Council agenda for Sept. 10. The agenda is posted by the end of the day Friday before the Monday meetings; sometimes sooner on Fridays.
Lorraine F September 06, 2012 at 08:31 PM
I hope the candidates will post their commitment to overturn this ban on their first day in office. And I agree with garymm, the ordinance is strange given the current administrations promotion of policies that will destroy our remaining natural habitats with cheap condo developments (aka affordable housing).
Manifold Witness September 06, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Good news! Per RI Resource Recovery staff today, Barrington just received $47,563.10 from RIRC for success in recycling. To clarify the process, Lorraine F, the proposed bag-ban ordinance hasn't been approved yet. It will be introduced (with a reading by Mrs. Speakman, the sponsor of the ordinance) at the public town council meeting, then there is a hearing, then the Town Council votes on whether or not to approve the ordinance that Mrs. Speakman is proposing. From the Projo article about RI's recent success with recycling: “JOHNSTON, R.I. -- The operator of the recycling facility at Rhode Island's Central Landfill disbursed $1.9 million in recycling profits Thursday morning to officials representing nearly every city and town in the state. The allotments, totaling about $1,944,000, represent a portion of the profits that the operator, the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp., reaped from the sale of recyclables processed at the recycling plant. Officials make the distribution each year and try to amplify the message that taxpayers save money for their communities by making the effort to recycle. "We want Rhode Island to be the No. 1 state in the country in recycling and dealing with solid waste issues," said Governor Chafee.” http://news.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/2012/09/johnston-ri----5.html
Lorraine F September 06, 2012 at 09:27 PM
So we got that $47K in spite of the fact that our own recycling center will not accept plastic bags as a recyclable item. Maybe we could have gotten more $ if we actually did recycle plastic bags. Thanks for the post Manifold!
Scott Clark September 06, 2012 at 11:04 PM
Sorry, I think I'm missing something. What exactly is the controversy here? This seems like the quick win for all concerned which is more likely to compel canvas bag use than paper bag purchases. I don't see how this applies to LMIH housing developments, washoff from other district water flows, profits to recycling centers, or any of the other comments on this topic over the last few weeks on Patch. Seems like an old idea whose time has come, like so many other things post-industrial societies invent, develop, use in mass, and evolve beyond. It's not like they're banning plastic bottles of water. Can only IMAGINE the noise in Concord :) Is there some actual economic or environmental impact that makes this a fundamentally bad idea?
Gary Morse September 07, 2012 at 01:26 AM
Scott, There is no real study data as to how this plastic bag ban will impact merchants in town. Shaw's is a high margin convenience location. Lacking any study data to show that there will be no negative impact to merchants, a ban amounts to little more than bureaucratic bullying by town officials. The same bureaucratic bullying was used when the affordable housing plan was implemented. The Barrington Comprehensive Community Plan was rigged to show a deficiency in existing affordable homes. Councilors Speakman and Weymouth applied that rigged data to convince residents that there was only one option for Barrington: build, build, build on what little land was left. They didn't reveal to residents that the law could equally be interpreted to show we already had enough affordable homes in Barrington to be compliant with existing laws. This was about their personal quest to save the world via a plastic bag ordinance we didn't want, while at the same time, forcing an unneeded affordable housing ordinance that had substantially greater environmental harm. I trust you get the irony, and problem, with this kind of government. I provide the town attorney's July 2012 quote on affordable housing laws: "There's a lot of attorney's whose livelihood depends on these fuzzy clauses here."
Manifold Witness September 07, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Hi Scott. If you click on "plastic bag ban" under "related topics" up top (at the end of Mr. Rupp's article, above) and read the comments to the other articles, it's easy to get a quick idea of the issues. Thanks for your interest in this question.
Scott Clark September 07, 2012 at 01:02 PM
Thanks Manifold. I had done that, and also searched just for "plastic bag" and read Joel's opinion on it. I also spent some time googl'ing for what other cities and countries did and opinions about. Here's what I am seeing, which makes me wonder what I'm missing :) - Some are concerned that this one decision avoids comprehensive recycle or compost plans. Valid, but you gotta start somewhere. - Some folks are angry. But honestly, *many* posts I ever see on any topic on any online forum are angry or against something. Not an indicator by itself. - Some use every Town decision as a proxy to raise concern about the LMIH mandates. Yes, a big issue, and I too am concerned not enough people know about it. But EBCDC's pitch on Sept 27th isn't related Grapes & Grains possibly needing to charge for paper bags. - A couple of notes about how expensive it is to make paper bags (nobody endorses replacing plastic with paper) or canvas bags (which we don't just toss away). A few valid concerns about the *implementation* of this ban though, since yea, the devil is in the details. - The rest of the comments either come down to political opinions (government overreach) about the size of government or concerns that the government isn't doing *enough* (lack of comprehensive planning). I personally just want to know why bagging plastic bags with incentives to use canvas ones is a bad thing.
Manifold Witness September 07, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Scott - Thanks for putting in the time & for summarizing the issues, but you left out all of the most important points: The pro-banners cite national recycling data that is about 5 times less successful than Barrington's actual experience. The local recycling success should be considered & celebrated... even though Kate Weymouth says that recycling isn't working in Barrington. She's wrong. In order to support Town Council regulations like the pro-banners want, June Speakman (in introducing her proposed ordinance) has to assert that it is necessary for the health, safety, welfare, etc., but the pro-banners have not proven their basic supporting allegations that the Barrington rivers are "slogged with sludge" that is made up of plastic grocery bags from Barrington retailers. The language in the proposed ordinance is problematic in and of itself, but that's a matter for another time. The pro-banners cannot explain how folks should handle their trash without using the lightweight grocery bags and without purchasing those thicker Hefty-type plastic bags. And communities that have banned plastic bags admit that this is a problem. The retailers will suffer losses. The manufacturers will suffer losses. Mrs. Speakman has not provided scientific data to support such a ban. When the lightweight plastic bags were first introduced, our government told us that the bag would save trees, and that the bags were recyclable & biodegradable. True or not?
Gary Morse September 07, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Scott, There is a question on why the Barrington recycling center will not take plastic bags for recycling. It's doable, just not being done. As Manifold points out, there are a lot of issues that might have been tackled before using the "B" word to solve this problem. Are plastic bags really clogging our rivers in town? I see no evidence of that. This brings us back to the problem of overuse of ordinances to shape the behavior of residents, something I am against and my point in my postings.
Joel Hellmann September 07, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Scott, The bag ban will solve nothing and also it will encourage the state to allow each town to take its own take on it. Which does not adress the problem of the bags or anything else in poluting the waterways, cerainly not in my Barrington neighborhood. The ban has a $300 fine in it. $300! If the store owner parks in a fire lane the fee is $25 I think handicapped space is $50 or $75, but if they hand out a plastic bag twice the fee is $300? Come on! would you want ot open a business with higher taxes, a populace that tends to shop in Seekonk and has fines so out of whack? Shaws on it's own solved 90% of the issue. the last 10% is all for show.
Scott Clark September 07, 2012 at 03:22 PM
You are all correct. None of these feel like a referendum on the concept itself though. - Manifold: I agree. I don't see that the Council proved this was a big enough problem worth solving through banning. I equate this thinking with banning cellphone calls while driving. Of COURSE holding a cellphone while driving is distracting. But so are dozens of other things drivers do (shave, makeup, newspapers, computers, etc). But instead of a national referendum on the underlying issue (distracted driving caused by stressed exerb commuters on clogged infrastructure) they went with the easier target. It's a feel-good law doable in a short office term. Banning plastic bags is sorta the same way. Not ideal, but achievable, and not itself a bad idea. - Garymm: I agree. The recycling center not taking bags sounds like either something nobody realized, or tried to tackle and failed. From a level of effort standpoint, it sounded easier to ban the bags. Not ideal either, but achievable. Similar to other thought processes as you point out :) - Joel: This goes back to the details of the implementation which I agree are flawed. The strongest argument I've seen against this is that it doesn't do enough. If we agree that the concept is fine, then really it IS about the details of the implementation. I wanted to understand if that's the case, because then it's easier to focus on the specifics (ridiculously mis-scaled fees or incentification for using canvas bags, etc)
Jean C. MacCorison September 10, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Here it is Monday and I'm just catching up with these comments. I'm interested in Scott's favoring canvas bags. They have some negative aspects, too. They can be potential breeding grounds for harmful bacteria especially if left in warm cars or infrequently or never washed. YouTube has a video on the subject of food borne illnesses associated with reusable grocery bags which might be of interest. Another thing to consider: are we moving in the direction of a "nanny town" with too much government intrusion into our personal lives?
Gary Morse September 10, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Jean, E Coli 0157H7 puts a woman in a coma! That's the Youtube story I trust you are referring to found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBRAQx-b7tg Thanks for your post above.
Scott Clark September 10, 2012 at 07:31 PM
That is very true about canvas bags. This does put the onus on the consumers to actually take care of them as they would clothing (doubly so since we don't normally use our shirts to carry watermelon around :) ). But the same could be said about recycling or reusing anything. Even if they figured out why the recycling center won't take plastic bags, that doesn't automatically increase the chances people will recycle them instead of, say, using them as car garbage bags or for the litter box. There needs to be incentives in place to change behaviors. Otherwise they're just dusty old rules in some bylaw somewhere that nobody ever reads.
Jean C. MacCorison September 10, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Gary, and there is also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv631Knsj64&=youtube regarding food borne illness and fabric bags. Thanks for your reference. Jean


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