Plastic Bag Ban – What Plastic Bag Ban?

by | Jan 26, 2020

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

What if you pass a law and nobody heard about it? That seems to be what happened to the ban on single-use plastic bags passed into law in East Greenwich Oct. 15, with a 90-day grace period. Eleven days after the end of the grace period, plastic bags are still being distributed at stores throughout East Greenwich, including CVS, Dave’s, and mini-marts like Main Street Convenience Store. 

Employees at all of the above outlets knew nothing about a ban. One store manager said he’d learned about it from a customer only last week. 

There is nothing on the town’s website about the new law and the town issued no official communication. The town didn’t think that would be necessary, said Town Manager Andrew Nota.

Based on our prior experience with such ordinances,” said Nota, “they traditionally come with significant local media coverage, detailed information and Chamber of Commerce distribution, [so] contact on these issues directly with business owners has not been necessary. Follow up from our enforcement officers would normally handle any gaps in communication that may exist.”

Nota became town manager in East Greenwich in September, after serving in that capacity in Jamestown, which enacted a single-use ban during his tenure. 

As for “significant local media coverage” – there wasn’t much. East Greenwich News even failed to spread the word. We did cover the new ordinance when it was introduced and at the public hearing Sept. 23, but we failed to write a story about its passage Oct. 15. And a search for any other news articles on the new law came up blank.

Plastic bags were still in use at the Dave’s Marketplace at 1000 Division St. in mid-January.

East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Steve Lombardi spoke in favor of the ordinance at the public hearing, but a review of emails from the chamber since Oct. 15 turned up no mention of the new ordinance. 

Nota acknowledged something needed to change. 

“Based on what we’re now hearing, additional communication may be necessary and we will promptly assess that need in the coming days,” he said via email over the weekend. “We will discuss the best approach to ensuring that local business owners actually have the required  information, and more importantly understand the requirements to comply.”

He noted that the ordinance does not affect all businesses, since many don’t use those types of plastic bags, and some plastic bags are still 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.

Businesses with a large stockpile of plastic bags may appeal to the town for an extension.

Read the ordinance here: EG’s Plastic Bag Ordinance.

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Christian roos
Christian roos
January 26, 2020 8:42 pm

Our main grocery store knew about the proposal since June and about the passage since October … Just FYI

Richard Cashman
Richard Cashman
January 31, 2020 2:50 pm
Reply to  Christian roos

Did the Town ever officially notify them of the proposed ordinance or it’s enactment? The town thru its agents has a responsibility to officially publicize this environmental effort. Instead, they have phoned it in and bemoan the fact the media didn’t do their job.

Richard Cashman
Richard Cashman
January 29, 2020 3:51 pm

It seems Mr. Nota failed on this one! This ordinance has major impact on commerce within East Greenwich and the environment. No notification to merchants, especially national chains, shows bad faith and poor communication skills by the Town staff. Since when is local media responsible for fulfilling the role of government. Where is the official notification by letter or email from East Greenwich to all those possessing a business license? Sloppy work by Mr. Nota and the staff. Maybe such shoddy work and poor communications was acceptable in Jamestown, but it shouldn’t be accepted here. You can’t just phone it in and expect the media to do your job for you. At least this should have been advertised (paid legal notice) to inform residents, merchants, etc. of the enactment. The Chamber of Commerce should have at least notified all of it’s membership.


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