By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Everyone loves the plastic bag ban, or so it seemed Monday night for the public hearing on a proposed ordinance to ban the types of plastic bags most of us get every time we go to retail outlets like grocery stores and pharmacies.

Right now, 13 cities and towns in Rhode Island have banned the use of so-called “single-use” plastic bags. The General Assembly tried but failed to pass a statewide ban, so the East Greenwich Town Council decided to pursue its own ban. 

According to the draft ordinance, the new law is designed to “improve the environment … and the health, safety, and welfare of its residents by reducing the number of plastic and paper bags being used and by encouraging reusable carryout bags….”

Many plastic bags would still be allowed, including smaller bags used at grocery stores for produce or at hardware stores for small items. Also exempt: plastic bags over flowers or potted plants and drying cleaning bags.

Town Manager Andrew Nota said Monday the one change in the proposed law would provide a grace period of up to six months for small businesses that may have a cache of plastic bags on hand making it a hardship to have them switch over before using up their inventory.

“We support the ordinance and I’m happy to hear about the phase in,” said EG Chamber of Commerce Director Steve Lombardi at the meeting Monday.

Town councilors spoke in favor of the ban, including Caryn Corenthal, who said she’d talked to the management of Dave’s and that they were on board. Dave’s already had to make the transition away from plastic at its two stores in North Kingstown, which banned the single-use plastic bag in 2018.

The ordinance moves to third reading, the last step before the Town Council will take on vote.