Portsmouth takes step toward plastic bag ordinance

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — The Portsmouth Town Council took a step Monday night toward banning single-use carry out plastic bags, but not before they hear more from local businesses. 

Clean Ocean Access requested that the Portsmouth council draft an ordinance to prohibit businesses from using plastic carry out bags or “single-use plastic bags.”

“We are requesting the Town Council to create a draft ordinance to eliminate single use plastic bags,” wrote Clean Ocean Access. “This will create an island-wide ordinance and position Aquidneck Island as a leader for environmental stewardship.”

According to Clean Ocean Access, more than 1,200 people signed a petition in Portsmouth supporting the ban before the Monday night meeting at Town Hall.

Councilor Linda L. Ujifusa motioned for the town administrator to work with Clean Ocean Access and local businesses to draft an ordinance, which would be presented to the council at a later date.

Councilor Ujifusa said she would like “to create an ordinance that includes more communications with the stakeholders.”

“I think that we all agree that eliminating single use plastic bags is a goal and Clements’ has always been a leader in protecting the local environment,” she said.

A representative from Clements’ Marketplace was not in attendance at Monday night’s council meeting. 

“Unfortunately, Tracy was not able to be here tonight,” Councilor Ujifusa said. “Some time in the future, there will be an actual ordinance and then we’ll be asked to vote up or down. This is not that time.”

The council approved the motion in a  6-1 vote with Councilor Paul Kesson opposed. 

The council discussed the concern of local shoppers bringing their business elsewhere if they are not able to use plastic bags. “It’s happened in other communities,” Council President Keith Hamilton said. 

If Portsmouth approved the ban, it would become the third and final Aquidneck Island community to ban single-use carry out plastic bags, making the island completely plastic free. 

“We can have a much more global impact than we think,” said marine biologist and local resident Monica DeAngelis, who supports the ban and has seen first-hand the impact of plastic in the ocean. 

“It’s just the right thing to do,” said local resident and environmental journalist Christopher Reeves, who also spoke before the council Monday and volunteered to help draft the town ordinance.

Both the city of Newport and town of Middletown passed ordinances banning plastic bags earlier this year. Both ordinances go into effect on Nov. 1.

The town of Jamestown has also considered banning single-use plastic bags. Jamestown residents will discuss the ban at a public hearing in September. 

What do you think about banning plastic bags? Should Portsmouth pass an ordinance? Take our poll here

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