Single-use plastic shopping bags litter our neighborhoods and waterways. But here in Rhode Island, they cause many more problems than just unsightly litter. Plastic bags:
- Contribute to climate change. They are derived from fossil fuels and require a great deal of energy to produce, producing a huge amount of CO2 each year.
- Pollute the marine environment. Once in the water, they break down into tiny pieces, called microplastics. These microplastics are ingested by marine creatures, killing wildlife and entering into the food chain. At the rate we consume plastic products globally, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight by 2050.
- Waste consumer dollars. Retailers build the cost of these products into the price of their goods. Even consumers that bring their own shopping bags are paying the price for these bags.
- Waste taxpayer dollars. Rhode Island Resource Recovery sees nearly 60 tons of plastic bags enter its facility each year. When these bags are in recycling loads, they contaminate them. These loads are then sent directly to the landfill, including all of the good, valuable recyclable material. Municipalities then must pay tipping fees and fines on these diverted loads, the cost of which ends up trickling down to taxpayers.
The good news is that several legislators have already indicated that they want to eliminate single-use plastic bags and all of the economic and environmental problems they create. They would do this by prohibiting the distribution of thin-film single-use plastic bags and placing a small fee on paper and thicker reusable plastic bags.
The fee encourages consumers to bring their own reusable bags and has shown to be a successful policy tool in the dozens of places that already have laws like this on the books. Additionally, small businesses are allowed to keep the fee to offset the increased costs of paper and thicker plastic bags.
Take Action! Let your State Representative and Senator know that you want them to support statewide legislative efforts to phase out single-use plastic bags once and for all!