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Metro, News

Providence bids goodbye to plastic bags

Providence’s ban on plastic bags, signed in May, in effect as of yesterday

Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The use of retail plastic bags is a thing of the past in Providence, following the beginning of a city-wide ban yesterday.

The ban was signed into law by Mayor Jorge Elorza May 1.

The ban exempts certain plastic bags, such as those used for laundry, dry-cleaning, produce, meat or fish. But most businesses must begin offering either reusable or recyclable paper bags as an alternative.

While the initially proposed version of the ban included a 10-cent fine on customers for every plastic bag used, the revised version limits fines to retailers, The Herald previously reported. Businesses found to violate the plastic bag ban will receive an initial warning. The next offense will induce a $50 fine, followed by $100 fines for each following offense.

Elorza and the Office of Sustainability have conducted outreach campaigns to notify businesses, according to Patricia Socarras, deputy director of communications in Elorza’s office. These outreach efforts include “business walks engaging local retailers; a guide created specifically for businesses; a partnership with Groundwork RI’s Green Team for targeted outreach; phone outreach; radio promotion; newspaper promotion; social media promotion; and a printed poster campaign,” she wrote in an email to The Herald.

Despite these efforts, some business owners have still been left out of the loop. Mariusz Masnyk, co-owner of the Subway on Waterman Street, said he hadn’t received any notice that the ban was going into effect as of Monday.

Roshan Baral, owner of Metro Mart on Thayer Street, was aware of the ban but unsure of its exact timing. Baral also said that the paper bags will come at an extra cost to his business. “I understand it’s for the good of the environment, but it’s not going to be cost-friendly for us,” he said, adding that paper bags with handles cost about 10 cents compared to three cents for plastic bags.

Although Angie Panphiphat, manager at Heng Thai and Rotisserie, agreed that the transition would be a “little bit difficult,” Heng had received a letter from the city about the ban and began using paper bags last week.

The plastic bag ban is part of the city’s efforts to make Providence healthier and more sustainable. “The Office of Sustainability has the Sustainable Providence Plan to implement a zero waste strategy by 2033 and is working to identify strategies on how Providence can become carbon neutral in the coming years,” Socarras wrote.

“I think some customers would still prefer to have plastic, but that’s not an option,” said Harry Adler, co-owner of Adler’s Design Center & Hardware. Adler’s has switched over to paper bags, and despite “minor inconveniences,” Adler said that the plastic bag ban is “the right thing to do, and we’re glad to do it.”

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