Barrington Council Bans Several Single-Use Plastics

Video and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

BARRINGTON, R.I. — The Town Council continued its role as a front runner on banning plastics.

In 2013, the suburban community became the first in the state to formally ban plastic shopping bags. This time the town outlawed a host of single-use plastics and foams, such as Styrofoam and other disposable items made of polystyrene like plastic utensils, cups, and straws.

The rules apply to retailers, restaurants, and town-owned properties such as schools, beaches, and parks. The ban doesn’t apply to packaging and foodware that is biodegradable, compostable, reusable, or recyclable.

The ordinance passed unanimously, 4-0, at the council’s Feb. 4 meeting. Five residents spoke in favor of the ban. No one spoke against it.

“If anyone doubts the need to reduce single-use plastics, you must be blind to the level of toxic plastic pollution in our oceans, on land, in our landfills, and in ourselves,” said Town Council vice president Kate Weymouth, a vocal advocate for the bag ban and the town’s latest restrictions.

Tony Morettini, chairman of Bristol’s Conservation Commission, spoke in favor of the ban and hoped that its passage inspires other communities to adopt similar restrictions on single-use plastics.

At a Jan. 23 public hearing, Weymouth noted that the town’s main supermarket, Shaw’s, didn’t object to the new bans. Shaw’s was a supporter of the 2013 bag ban and has a robust waste-diversion program.

The ban applies to public and private schools, food trucks, clubs, houses of worship, and events held on town property.

Restaurants and coffee shops will no longer be able to offer non-recyclable plastic and foam cups, to-go containers, and utensils. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and convenience stores will be prohibited from selling those items. They are permitted to sell products that are packaged in those materials but only if they are prepared outside of town.

A provision was added to the ordinance to allow restaurants to make plastic straws available upon request to people with disabilities.

Weymouth noted that the ordinance is being self-policed and that the public is responsible for reporting violations to the police.

Businesses may seek exemptions for specific banned items from the town manager. Retailers must comply by July 1. Restaurants and all other entities must comply by Jan. 1, 2020.

First-time violators will be issued a written warning. A second violation receives a $150 fine. A third violation within a year costs $300.

Town Council president Michael Carrol noted that this ban will likely be easier for the public to follow since it won’t require a change in behavior such as remembering to bring reusable bags to the store.