DEM Announces Public Comment Period is Open for Plastic Waste Reduction Act Regulations

Published on Tuesday, September 19, 2023

PROVIDENCE, RI – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is announcing that the public comment period for the regulations it has drafted to implement the Plastic Waste Reduction Act is open until Oct. 1 and there will be a hearing on the regs at DEM on Sept. 26. The Rhode Island General Assembly passed the legislation in the 2022 session and Governor Dan McKee signed it into law. The law bans retail establishments from providing single-use plastic bags to customers at the point of sale. Eighteen of 39 Rhode Island communities have passed similar plastic bag bans. The law, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2024, ensures a uniform and consistent legal standard statewide on plastic bags. Click here to view the regulations.

The law, authored by Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio and Rep. Carol Hagan McEntee, directed DEM to conduct a cost benefit analysis along with drafting regulations. Three facts stand out in the analysis.

  1. Discarded plastic bags not only become unsightly litter on Rhode Island coastlines and in Narragansett Bay and the ocean, they also contribute to the worsening crisis of microplastic pollution. Microplastics can be ingested by fish, shellfish, other sea life — and ultimately, by humans. Globally, it is estimated that people consume around five grams of plastic every week. This is the equivalent of a credit card.
  2. Plastic bags wreak havoc on recycling. They are one of the biggest contaminants in the state’s recycling stream, causing higher rejected recycling rates and higher disposal costs, particularly in environmental justice communities. “No plastic bags, bags of bags, or recycling inside of bags!” the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation urges Rhode Islanders on its website.
  3. Eliminating unnecessary plastics will make a small but important dent in society’s dependence on fossil fuels, the burning of which causes greenhouse gas emissions. The United Nations Environment Programme 2014 Year Book reported that over 30% of the natural capital costs of plastic are due to greenhouse gas emissions from raw material extraction and processing.

“Single-use plastic bags have severe environmental impacts on a local and global scale, including pollution of our waters, harm to marine life and wildlife, greenhouse gas emissions, blocking storm drains, and creating litter,” the DEM analysis states.