Barrington Revises Bag Ban to Include Thicker Plastic

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

BARRINGTON, R.I. — Trying to plug a loophole in the town’s plastic-bag ban, the Town Council recently voted, 3-2, to adjust the ordinance to include thicker plastic bags.

By itself, it’s not a big change, but Town Council vice president Kate Weymouth explained during the Feb. 1 meeting that the amendment is part of a larger attempt by companies to skirt the rules in other communities with similar bans.

Weymouth noted that last summer Shaw’s and CVS introduced so-called reusable plastic bags to replace paper ones that they had been offering since the town’s Reusable Checkout Bag Initiative was passed in 2012. The two stores were able to offer the new bags by exceeding the 2.25-millimeter thickness limit.

Weymouth singled out the Germany-based company Ecoloop, saying that the company was subverting the spirit of plastic-bag bans by getting stores to take advantage of what she called the “Ecoloop loophole.”

“These thicker plastic bags are not unique to Barrington. This is happening all over the world,” she said. “They are banking, quite literally, on the time and effort it will take for municipalities, states and countries to drag through the process to amend that legislation.”

Council member Ann Strong opposed the ban, calling it “feel-good legislation at its worst.” She introduced a failed amendment to include a ban on Styrofoam and plastic sandwich bags at schools.

Joseph Roberts, a member of the Conservation Commission, drafted the bag-ban ordinance to safeguard waterfront habitat and make the community cleaner.

“It’s something we need to do and ought to have done the first time,” he said.

Most bans, like the Barrington ordinance, prohibit thin-film, plastic checkout and takeout bags, while allowing exemptions for produce, meat, flower and dry-cleaning bags. The Barrington ban also excludes bags considered biodegradable, compostable and oxo-biodegradable.

Barrington is the only Rhode Island municipality with a bag ban. Seventeen municipalities in Massachusetts have such a ban. Connecticut has one town with a ban. Legislation to enact statewide bag bans has stalled in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.