CVS and Shaw’s Bring the Plastic Back

Despite a bag ban in Barrington, the two retail chains are again handing out plastic shopping bags

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

CVS is calling these thicker plastic bags with handles ‘reusable' as a way of getting around the law. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

CVS is calling these thicker plastic bags with handles ‘reusable' as a way of getting around the law. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

BARRINGTON, R.I. — Despite a ban on plastic bags at the checkout line, CVS and Shaw’s have brought back the plastic. Both stores now offer plastic shopping bags, after making the switch to paper bags when the town enacted a two-year plastic bag ban in 2012. The Town Council made the ban permanent in June 2014.

The law banned plastic checkout bags but exempted produce, dry cleaning and plastic bag liners. It only applied to the ubiquitous thin-film bags, and made an exemption for thicker reusable plastic bags.

CVS and Shaw’s are promoting their thicker plastic bags as reusable. Shaw’s currently offers free paper bags and charges 10 cents apiece for the plastic bags. CVS stopped using paper bags altogether and this year shifted to free plastic bags.

Town Council vice president Kate Weymouth claims the thicker checkout bags defy the intent, if not the letter of the ordinance. In an e-mail to supporters of the ban, Weymouth wrote that the town’s ordinance relied on boiler-plate language from other bans across the country.

She wrote that the oil, gas and plastic industries fear losing revenue from the bans, so “they have legally worked around the language of these bans, and in ours specifically, by producing a thicker ply plastic, sticking handles to the top and stamping them with the word ‘reusable.’”

Barrington is the only municipality in Rhode Island with a plastic bag ban. Legislation to enact a statewide ban stalled in committee in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Massachusetts has bag bans in 10 cities and towns. Statewide bans also failed in Massachusetts and Connecticut this year.