Barrington Passes Bag Ban ... Sort Of

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

BARRINGTON, R.I. — Instead of taking a small and symbolic step to place an outright ban on plastic grocery bags, the Town Council compromised by passing a ban that expires in two years.

The 4-to-1 vote came after nearly an hour of debate, during which most residents at the Monday night meeting expressed support for the ban. Many proponents, in fact, received applause after their passionate pleas to the council.

“We’re sending a message to our children, we’re sending a message to our county, our state. We’re sending a message to the rest of the world,” said resident Mike Quas before the “sunset provision” was added to the proposed prohibition. “This is a product we can do without; we don’t need if for survival.”

Advocates for the ban, however, still consider the water-down ordinance a success.

“I’m a little disappointed by the sunset provision, but I think it will be something easy to come in two years when other towns have done it and move forward,” said Conservation Commission member Joseph Roberts, who proposed the ban.

The refrain among many supporters of the ban was that the ordinance would inspire other Rhode Island communities, and even the state, to pass a plastic bag ban.

“Other communities will be emboldened and inspired by it,” said Channing Jones, of Environment Rhode Island, the advocacy group that canvassed the town for support from some 400 residents and 14 businesses.

Jones said his organizations is actively seeking bans in Bristol, Jamestown and Warren.

Town Counci member Kate Weymouth said her support for the ban increased after an Environment Rhode Island canvasser knocked on her door and explained the dangers of plastic bags on the environment. She noted that only 11 percent of plastic bags on average are recycled, and half of those are shipped to China where they are “recycled in a toxic process.” She also read off the name of the dozens of states, cities and countries that have already banned plastic bags.

“This is clearly one of the most critical issues of our time," she said.

After the vote, Weymouth, who is running for re-election in November, said this vote was her proudest during her term in office.

She seemed confident that the Town Council would reinstate the ban after it ends in January 2015. “This is clearly a grassroots effort with great momentum," Weymouth said.