Rhode Island

Reusable Bags for Rhode Island!

Active | January 08 2020

Plastic Pollution

The Rhode Island Chapter is working with our Northeast Regional Manager to support a statewide single-use checkout bag mitigation bill that uses proven policy mechanisms to incentivize reusable bag use.


H.7306 went to public hearing before the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on February 6, 2020.

The Committee voted to hold the bill for a bit to discuss it more.

All this is to say...YOU still have an opportunity to send along comments! THIS IS CRITICAL AT THIS POINT! Please urge House ENR Committee lawmakers to maintain the fee on paper, despite the Senate passing SB2003-Substitute A on 2-26-20, without the fee.


H.7306 is a strong bill that has proven policy mechanisms intact to:
➜Encourage reusable bag use by charging a fee for paper bags
➜Support businesses by mandating a uniform fee for paper bags
➜Protect the environment
➜Ban thin film plastic bags
➜Encourage accessibility of reusable bags to financially challenged communities

Please submit your support for the bill and its paper bag fee by emailing the House Committee on Environment clerk and asking him to share your comments with the full Committee: lmansolillo@rilegislature.gov 


The senate version of The Plastic Waste Reduction Act, S.2003, was scheduled for further discussion by the Senate Committee on Environment and Agriculture on 2-12-20. On 2/11/20, this proposed substitute bill surfaced, and on 2/12/20, the Committee voted to recommend passage of S.2003 Substitute A, which unfortunately still fails to address single-use paper bags with the mandated, uniform fee that is proven to be necessary for good bag reduction law. S.2003 Sub.A went to the Senate floor on 2/25/20 for a vote with the Committee's recommendation to pass, and it passed.

This bill does not mandate the paper bag fee and would not create good bag law in Rhode Island.

➜Please consider emailing your RI State Senator, the Senate President, and the Senate President's policy staffer, asking that they reconsider their position on the paper bag fee, which is vital to create good bag law: sen-ruggerio@rilegislature.gov, KBramson@rilegislature.gov. If the House Bill maintains the paper bag fee mechanism and passes, then the Senate and House will need to reconcile their bills. So there may be room for the Senate to accept that the paper bag fee is necessary. 


We ask the Senate to reject S.2003-Sub A and adopt instead the House version of this bill, which contains the required fee on paper bags.


Importantly, H.7306 would require a 5-cent fee to be retained by retailers to be charged for every single-use paper bag given at point of sale. This is a vital policy mechanism that supports businesses and results in the intended incentivization of reusable bag use; without the fee on paper, Surfrider would not support this legislation.

We urge the Committee to retain the fee on paper bags and to vote the bill favorably out of committee in order to best support businesses and promote intended results for reusable bag use. Data proves that fees on paper bags are required to achieve these outcomes.

In jurisdictions where well-meaning legislators and environmental advocates have advanced bag reduction legislation without addressing paper with a fee, data proves that stores pay more and paper bag use increases. When these laws are revised to include the fee on paper, the intended results of encouraging reusable bags manifest and the use of paper bags decreases (Chicago, IL). 

Contrary to what you may have heard, when we pass laws that fail to address paper with a fee, lobbyists for the plastics industry use that data to try to demonstrate that bag laws hurt businesses, to the detriment of bag restriction campaigns. While this is misleading, as good bag laws that include a fee on paper bags actually support businesses, it is true that bag laws without the fee on paper have negative results on businesses. This is a huge factor in our position that passing a subpar bag bill is in fact not better than passing no bag bill at all. The fee on paper bags is required for good bag law.

H.7306 also contains an important accessibility clause urging retailers to target financially challenged communities with free reusable bag giveaways. 

For talking points and studies to cite when advocating for the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources to maintain the mandated fee on paper bags and the inclusive section for accessibility to get reusable bags into financially challenged communities, please check out our tool kit.

Thank you!


S.2003 went to public hearing on January 24, 2020. The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources voted on January 29, 2020 to recommend that the bill be retained for further study. This means that the Committee is not yet ready to act on the bill, and will need to call it again to take further action.  


Senate bill 2003, the Plastic Reduction Act, was introduced to the Rhode Island Assembly on January 8, 2020. The bill essentially mimics the bill that passed the Rhode Island Senate in 2019 but failed to make it through the House.

This is a good start, but as written the bill would incentivize single-use paper bags to the detriment of businesses, shoppers and the environment, rather than the intended target of encouraging shoppers to bring their own reusable bags.

Good single-use plastic bag reduction bills need to include the environmental justice community in conversations to best ensure that financially challenged communities, families and individuals have a voice in policy-making and fair access to non-plastic film reusable bags. 

With bag laws, it is vital that we advance proven policy mechanisms that data proves are needed to create good statewide bag law. 

These proven policy mechanisms include:

  • A mandatory, uniform fee on all allowable plastic film bags, if any
  • A mandatory, uniform fee on all allowable paper bags
  • A mandatory, minimum fee for initial purchase of reusable bags

We are advocating for the current definition of "reusable bags" in S.2003 to be amended. As written, this definition could allow 4 mil plastic film bags to be distributed for free, thereby incentivizing their employ. This would contravene the intent of the legislation, as with thicker plastic film bags being given out for free more plastic would be generated at a higher cost per bag, and then be wasted at the detriment of businesses, consumers and the environment (see: Austin, TX study). 

As we believe the intent of S.2003 is to disallow plastic film bags while allowing reusable bags with stitched handles that may or may not be made in part of plastic, we are asking for all text in this section after polypropylene to be struck.  

Data proves that shoppers are incentivized by fees; when there is a choice to pay a fee for a single-use bag or bring your own bag to avoid the fee, we categorically see a spike in reusable bag usage. 

On the other hand, where any type of checkout bag is given out for free, we categorically see a spike in the usage of that type of free bag.

The intent of any good single-use bag restriction law is to encourage non-film reusable bag use -- not to force a fee for continued use of throwaway bags on consumers. Environmental justice demands that we establish the same standards of environmental and human health access to all people, and that we do so in an inclusive way that builds-in accessibility to reusable bags. 

Establishing fees for single-use paper bags concurrent with mandating inclusive process to establish and fund accessibility programming to get stitched handled reusable bags in the hands of those who need help to access them for free is a proven method that we know works to incentivize reusable bag use, support businesses fairly and attain access to reusable bags for low income households, whereas ignoring paper bags is proven to incentivize paper bag use to the detriment of businesses and the environment (see: Chicago studyDC studyWestport, CT study). 

The House version of the plastic bag bill, H.7306, does call for a fee on paper bags. Importantly, while the House bill would require a 5-cent fee to be retained by retailers to be charged for every single-use paper bag given at point of sale. The House bill would be strengthened by requiring a mandatory, minimum fee on all reusable bags sold at point of sale - closing a loophole exploited elsewhere, where cheap plastic bags made of virgin plastic and measured in grams are sneaking through as "reusable" and being used in a single-use manner.  

We will be working hard to get a good bag law passed in Rhode Island, and we hope YOU will join us to help! Give a shout to get involved.

Plastic Pollution

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