NP officials discuss limiting plastic bag use

NP officials discuss limiting plastic bag use

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Mayor Charles Lombardi says he understands the impact single-use plastic bags have on the environment, but is concerned a mandate to eliminate or restrict use of the bags locally could create significant problems for many small businesses in town.

“It’s the right thing to do – I know that,” said Lombardi at a meeting hosted by Councilor Alice Brady Monday. “But it’s going to take a little more effort to convince our local businesses that this is what should be done.”

The mayor said he would like to come up with a program allowing the town to ease away from single-use plastic bags, “but as far as a mandate, I’m afraid that we could have a small business problem.”

Other participants at the meeting, including Councilor Ken Amoriggi, Recycling Coordinator Bob Nascimento, and environmental activist Barry Schiller, seemingly agreed that a mandate on bags would not be the right move at this time.

Instead, the group agreed to ask some of the larger retailers in town to find ways to voluntarily reduce usage of the bags.

“We don’t want to harass businesses and put our town at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring towns,” said Schiller. “But I would like our town to take some initiative on reducing use of plastic bags.”

Advocates can ask companies to find incentives to reduce usage of plastic bags in their stores and encourage the utilization of reusable bags, Schiller suggested.

Seven Rhode Island municipalities have either enacted or passed some level of ban on plastic bags, including Barrington, Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, Bristol, Jamestown, and Block Island. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza vetoed in March an ordinance passed by the City Council that would have banned single-use plastic bags in the state’s capital.

Both Schiller and Nascimento expressed the need for recycling education, specifically on what can and can’t be recycled, in addition to the push to reduce use of plastic bags.

“It’s not just a matter of recycling,” said Schiller. “If you don’t do it right, and contaminate it, that’s a problem.”

“We need to remind people that recycling saves tax dollars,” said Nascimento. “We can draft something concise and run it in the local paper.”

The mayor, who also serves as a member of the board for Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corp., acknowledged that more citizens need to understand the importance of recycling.

“People need to understand there is a life expectancy on that landfill. There will be significant costs once that landfill has been exhausted,” he said. “We’re going to have to send it out of state.”