June 11, 2021


Plastic Bags Bill

Plastic poses a threat to the environment, specifically the oceans, rivers, lakes, forests, and the wildlife that inhabit these areas.

Introduced By:

Date Introduced:

Referred to:

Madison Gothberg

June 11, 2021, 3:26:31 PM

Health and Human Services

  1. Plastic pollution is extremely harmful to oceans, rivers, lakes, forests, and the wildlife that inhabits these areas, frequently causing their deaths to land and marine life through ingestion and/or entanglement.

  2. In addition to this, plastic bags contribute to climate change and pollution to the coastal environment by clogging stormwater drainage systems.

  3. Plastic bags also create another barrier for recycling facilities and are the leading contaminant in the facilities in Rhode Island.

  4. It is imperative to the health, safety, and environment of Rhode Island residents to reduce the distribution of single-use plastic bags and ban the use of single-use plastic bags for retail checkout of goods, in addition to the existing paper bag incentive.

  5. State lawmakers across the nation have introduced at least 95 bills in 2019 related to plastic bags.

  6. Rhode Island is one of only three states in New England that has not yet banned plastic bags.

  7. Rhode Island is one of only three states left to join Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont in the Plastic Free New England campaign.


Glossary of Terms:

As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the following meanings:

  1. “Single-use plastic checkout bag” means a carryout bag that is provided to the customer at the time of a sale checkout for the purpose of transporting groceries or retail goods, and is made from compostable or non-compostable plastic and not specifically designed and manufactured for reuse.

  2. This does not include

  3. Bags used to contain prepackaged items to prevent contamination of other goods.

  4. Bags used by a customer inside a business to package loose items that are not prepackaged.

  5. Newspaper bags for home deliveries.

  6. Laundry or dry cleaning bags.

  7. Bags sold in packages containing multiple bags intended for household or commercial use to contain food, garbage, pet or yard waste, and;

  8. Bags used to transport live animals, such as fish or insects from pet stores.

  9. “Recyclable paper bag” means a paper bag that is one hundred percent (100%) recyclable including the handles, and displays the words “Recyclable” except for on paper carryout bags at restaurants.

  10. “Reusable checkout bag” means a bag with handles that are stitched and that is specifically designed and manufactured for fifty (50) or more reuses, and is made primarily of washable cloths or other durable fabrics.

  11. “Recyclable cardboard box” means a box composed of non-waxed cardboard or paper products.

  12. “Retail sales establishment” means any licensed establishment where the sale of goods to a customer in exchange for payment occurs in a retail or grocery store, restaurant, or other food service establishments.

  13. “Retail checkout of goods” means the interaction of a customer paying for goods in a retail or grocery store, restaurant, or other food service establishments, in which the goods are placed in a bag for the purpose of transporting the goods out of the establishment.

It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:

SECTION 1. Title 23 of the General Laws entitled “HEALTH AND SAFETY” is hereby amended by adding the following:

23-18.11-3. Prohibition on the use and distribution of single-use plastic checkout bags.

  1. Retail sales and other establishments are prohibited from selling or making available any bag that is not reusable, recyclable paper bags, or recyclable cardboard boxes as defined in this chapter.

  2. Retail sales and other establishments that carry out deliveries of goods from their establishments to customers are prohibited from using single-use plastic checkout bags for these deliveries. Retail sales establishments may deliver these goods in recyclable paper bags, reusable bags, or recyclable cardboard boxes as defined by this chapter.

  3. To reduce the use of single-use bags, retail sales establishments are encouraged to make available, and sell, reusable bags to their customers.


23-18.11-5. Supersede all local legislation.

  1. This chapter establishes legislation at the state level, which replaces all prior local legislation, regulations, and ordinances regarding this topic. This means that this chapter takes the place of past regulations on reusable bags, single-use bags, and recyclable bags.


23-18.11-4. Enforcement and penalty.

  1. Jurisdiction for enforcement of this chapter shall be with the Department of Environmental Management.

  2. Violations of this chapter shall be subject to penalties set forth:

  3. One hundred dollars ($100) for the first violation.

  4. Two hundred dollars ($200) for the second violation.

  5. Five hundred dollars ($500) for the third violation, or any further violations.


Plastic Bags Bill

will go into effect on

January 1, 2022, 5:00:00 AM