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They are how we protect our special coastal places

02 • 01 • 2016

Strengthen Barrington's Bag Ordinance!

The Surfrider Foundation Rhode Island Chapter worked with their Northeast Regional Manager to urge the Barrington, RI town council to support amendments to its bag ban ordinance that would close loopholes that the plastics industry is currently exploiting to navigate around the ordinance's intents. Some stores have purchased thicker, handled bags labeled "reusable" to dispense for free, encouraging single-use behaviors and thwarting the ban.

Plastic marine debris is a huge problem for the ocean. Most plastic pollution at sea starts out on land as litter on beaches, streets and sidewalks. Rain and overwatering lawns also flush litter through storm drains or directly to waterways that lead to the ocean. Once plastics enter the marine environment, they slowly photodegrade into smaller pieces that marine life can mistake for food, oftentimes with fatal results.

The Surfrider Foundation established its Rise Above Plastics program in 2007 as a way to begin addressing the issue of plastic marine debris by educating people about specific impacts of plastics pollution and ways to engage to help, including refusing & reducing the use of single-use products, like thin film plastic bags, reusing things, like take out containers, and finally, recycling. Bag ban and fee ordinances are one way that Surfrider Chapters engage in their communities to help mitigate plastic marine debris, as the fewer single-use plastics in circulation, the fewer single-use plastics in the wastestream or in the ocean!

The town of Barrington RI has a bag ban on the books that is being exploited to keep plastic bags that are being used in a single-use manner in circulation at stores. The Council has taken up the issue by starting discussions to amend their bag ban to strengthen the language and close the loopholes. To assist the Council with this, the Surfrider Foundation Rhode Island Chapter submitted testimony to the Council to offer specific recommendations to include ALL three of these amendments in concert:

  1. Increase the thickness to define single-use plastic bags as those less than 4 ml;
  2. Require a mandatory, minimum fee on all reusable bags distributed; and
  3. Require a mandatory, uniform fee on all paper bags distributed.

The public hearing was held at the Barrington Town Hall on Monday, February 1, 2016 @7PM, where the amendments passed, 3-2.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Barrington Councilor, Kate Weymouth, the amendments designed to close the loophole being exploited in the town's bag ban by a company manufacturing single-use plastic bags to the 2.25-ml passed.

We supported the amendments and as noted above, originally asked the council to take the ordinance further, to assess a mandatory, uniform fee on all reusable bags and a mandatory, minimum fee of 10-cents on all paper bags. However, due to divisive political considerations, the desire to protect the original ban, and to cease the immediate threats that single-use bags in circulation are posing to the waters and beaches of Barrington, we supported amendments at the hearing, with a nod to the ideal language, which we'll continue to angle for at the state level.

THANKS to everyone who supported this effort!

Questions…? Please message our Northeast Regional Manager at

You can also join or renew your Surfrider Foundation membership to help support our important work!