Hundreds of millions of plastic bags

Rhode Islanders use hundreds of millions of disposable plastic bags every year—most of which we use only once, for the few minutes it takes us to get home from the store. Even when they make their way to landfills, these bags often end up getting carried by the wind into Narragansett Bay and our parks, beaches and rivers.

Marine environment in danger

Too many plastic bags end up as litter in Narragansett Bay and off our coast, and it's creating an ecological disaster:

  • Turtles, whales and other marine animals that pass through Rhode Island waters often mistake plastic bags for food, which can cause them to starve or choke to death. They can also get entangled in bags and drown or die of suffocation.
  • Adult seabirds inadvertently feed small pieces of plastic to their chicks, often causing them to die when their stomachs become filled with plastic.
  • As plastic bags break down into smaller fragments, fish and quahogs are vulnerable to the toxic pollutants they carry. Fish and clams are vital to the marine food chain and Rhode Island's economy.

Nothing we use for five minutes should pollute the Bay for hundreds of years

Because they do not biodegrade, plastic from bags remains in our waters for hundreds of years, perhaps longer. Nothing we use for just five minutes should pollute Narragansett Bay for hundreds of years, spoiling its waters with trash and endangering the wildlife we treasure and depend on.

It’s time for Rhode Island to ban plastic bags

Luckily, the solution is simple: lawmakers can make Rhode Island an environmental leader by banning these plastic bags.We won our first victory for the Bay in the fall, when Barrington became the first Rhode Island municipality to ban the bag. If enough of us speak out, we’re can to build on that momentum and ban the bag statewide.

We helped ban plastic bags locally in Barrington, and now we’re working in other places in Rhode Island that are considering similar steps. With a statewide bill headed to the legislature in its next session, this is the chance for Rhode Island to be the first to ban plastic bags at a state level.

Join our campaign today to ban plastic bags: Send your legislature a message today!

Issue updates

News Release | Environment Rhode Island

With Senate hearing, plastic bag ban takes next step in legislative process

On April 2nd, the Rhode Island Senate’s Environment & Agriculture Committee held an initial hearing for S2314, the 2014 Senate bill to ban plastic shopping bags statewide in Rhode Island. Environmental groups, municipal leaders, and concerned citizens attended the hearing to testify in support of the measure. Supportive testimony outnumbered opposition 7 to 1.

> Keep Reading
News Release | Environment Rhode Island

Environmental groups hail EPA action as biggest step for clean water in a decade

Coming off the biggest step forward for clean water in more than a decade, Environment Rhode Island stood with regional organizations and officials to celebrate the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to restore Clean Water Act protections to waterways across New England and the rest of the country. The EPA’s proposed rule would close loopholes from polluter-led litigation that leave 54% of Rhode Island streams at risk of unchecked pollution.

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News Release | Environment Rhode Island

At hearing, overwhelming support for plastic bag ban

The Rhode Island House of Representatives' Environment & Natural Resources Committee held an initial hearing for H7178, the 2014 House bill to ban plastic shopping bags statewide in Rhode Island. Environmental groups, small business owners, policy experts, municipal leaders, and concerned citizens attended the hearing to testify in support of the measure. Of those who spoke at the hearing, twenty five supported the legislation and two opposed it.

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News Release | Environment Rhode Island

Volunteers turn out for Rhode Island Plastic Bag Hunt

As Rhode Island lawmakers consider proposed legislation to ban plastic shopping bags statewide, approximately 75 volunteers and activists turned out Saturday 3/8 for the Rhode Island Plastic Bag Hunt, a statewide scavenger hunt for plastic bag litter hosted by Environment Rhode Island. Participants set out in teams and took photographs of plastic bags to complete a checklist––with items from "find a plastic bag on a beach or shoreline" to "find someone using a reusable bag".

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News Release | Environment Rhode Island

Johnston senator sponsors bill to ban plastic bags statewide

State Sen. Frank Lombardo (Johnston) introduced a bill in the Rhode Island Senate to ban plastic bags statewide. A counterpart to the House of Representatives bill introduced last month by State Rep. Maria Cimini, the bill prohibits the distribution of disposable plastic shopping bags at the point of sale by Rhode Island retailers, effective January 2015 for large retailers and January 2016 for small businesses. 

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