Boston is close to banning plastic bags after a unanimous city council vote Wednesday. Several Rhode Island municipalities have also banned the bags, but some advocates make the case for a statewide ban.
Plastic bags cannot be recycled curbside in Rhode Island, despite the recycle symbol printed on them. Johnathan Berard, state director of the advocacy group Clean Water Action, said too many plastic bags are ending up in recycling loads anyway.
Berard said that's a problem because the loads cannot be processed when too many plastic bags are mixed in.
“All of the good recyclable material that’s in the back of that truck now goes and gets put in with all of the rest of the municipal solid waste, and so you’ve got really good, valuable recyclable material that’s ending up in the landfill instead of being processed and sold," Berard said.
Rhode Island’s largest landfill only has about 15 years left before its full.
Berard said because of that, it’s important to pass measures that incentivize the use of reusable bags.
Berard added when contaminated loads are sent to landfills, it costs cities and towns a fee of $39.50 per ton. Each year, that costs municipalities tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the Providence Journal. The Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation estimates that fee also costs households an extra $1.05 a month.
Currently, Jamestown, Middletown, Newport and Barrington have passed restrictions on plastic bags.