EAST GREENWICH- In October of 2019, the East Greenwich Town Council passed an ordinance banning the use of plastic bags in town.
“The purpose of this article is to improve the environment in East Greenwich and the health, safety, and welfare of its residents by reducing the number of plastic and paper bags being used and by encouraging the use of reusable carryout bags and banning the use of plastic bags for retail checkout of goods. Retail Establishments are encouraged to make reusable carryout bags available for sale,” the purpose of the ordinance stated.
When the pandemic hit its stride, the town council granted executive powers to Town Manager Andy Nota, under declaration of the State of Emergency.
With those powers, one of the things that he enacted was temporarily suspending the plastic bag ban.
Town Council President, and a medical doctor Mark Schwager, explained at the time that there were concerns that reusable bags could play a roll in the spread of COVID-19.
“At that time, there were some concerns that reusable shopping bags as opposed to disposable plastic bags might increase the exposure to CoronaVirus. Things have changed a lot over the last year or so and the pandemic impact has changed, we’ve also learned about the limited role of surface contamination in the spread of CoronaVirus,” Schwager said.
During the April 12, East Greenwich Town Council Meeting, Town Manager Andy Nota announced that he would be ending his suspension of the plastic bag ban and it will be going back into effect.
“At a moment in time when the light switch was flipped and businesses who weren’t previously in the takeout business suddenly were in that business– that was really the main emphasis at the time where support from an ordinance was needed,” Nota said about why they decided to temporarily allow plastic bags in town.
He said that now though, is the time to end the ban.
“It’s really an appropriate time for us to eliminate the relief at least for now,” he said.
Nota explained that because there is an enforcement piece to the ordinance, the town will wait until Monday, April 19 to put the ordinance back into effect so businesses can have time to become aware, and adjust accordingly.
Nota also said that he has had conversations with leadership at the East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce and they didn’t have any concerns about the ban being put back into effect.
While the plastic bags were allowed to be used in town Nota said that he thinks that the businesses used them wisely.
“I think the businesses have done an excellent job of managing their bag use, I think the public as well,” he said.
The next East Greenwich Town Council meeting is slated for Monday, April 26 at 7 p.m.