Barrington Debates Changing Its Bag Ban

For now, Shaw’s and CVS will continue to use loophole to handout plastic shopping bags

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Barrington Town Council member Ann Strong, who opposes a bag ban, says all non-recyclable items should then be pulled from store shelves. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News photos)

Barrington Town Council member Ann Strong, who opposes a bag ban, says all non-recyclable items should then be pulled from store shelves. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News photos)

BARRINGTON, R.I. — Rhode Island’s first and only community with a bag ban came close to closing a loophole in its law, but in the end decided to wait a month to make sure the ordinance prevented retailers from finding ways to skirt the rule, again.

After more than an hour of debate at its Oct. 5 meeting, which featured overwhelming support from the public, it seemed the Town Council had the three votes needed to exclude thicker plastic bags that Shaw’s and CVS began offering this year.

Tracy McGrath, sales director for a German company that produces plastic bags, gave a presentation at the council’s Oct. 5 meeting to discuss the virtues of these thicker plastic bags.

Tracy McGrath, sales director for a German company that produces plastic bags, gave a presentation at the council’s Oct. 5 meeting to discuss the virtues of these thicker plastic bags.

Two council members, Stephen Primiano and Ann Strong, were dead set against the measure, calling the ban a feel-good vote that wouldn’t have an impact and was essentially a waste of time.

“I hate that kind of legislation,” Strong said. She held up several items sold at Shaw’s that didn’t seem recyclable, such as a foam egg carton, and suggested the store “take everything off the shelves that’s not recyclable.”

“The town doesn’t need to get involved in everyone’s daily lives,” Primiano said.

Many residents responded by saying the bag ban was a small step in a national movement to ban plastic bags. “It’s just our chance to step it sooner,” Kim Jacobs said. “There’s no reason not to do this.”

Barrington became the first municipality in the state to enact a bag ban, in 2012. The ban included a two-year sunset provision. In June 2014 the Town Council made the ban permanent.

Council vice president Kate Weymouth said no local business has complained to her since the ban passed.

A plastic sales representative for the German company that provides the new thicker bag, gave a 6-minute presentation on the virtues of the bag. A representative from the Rhode Island Food Dealers Association also spoke in favor of plastic bags.

The next hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for Nov. 12.