On Wednesday, May 1st Mayor Jorge O. Elorza joined Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan, the Office of Sustainability and community leaders and advocates to sign the “Reduction of Single-Use Checkout Bags by Retail Establishments” ordinance.
“This ordinance is a major step towards making the City of Providence a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable city for our residents and future generations to come,” expressed the Mayor.
The “Reduction of Single-Use Checkout Bags by Retail Establishments” ordinance was unanimously approved by Providence City Council on April 22, which also happens to be Earth Day, and will go into effect in six months. Providence’s Office of Sustainability now has 60 days to introduce an implementation, education, outreach and enforcement strategy which will help prepare and support retailers as they transition away from single-use checkout bags.
FAQ: Reduction of Single-Use Checkout Bags by Retail Establishments
Q: What does the ordinance do?
Prohibits retailers from offering single-use plastic bags at the checkout counter.
Q: What about produce bags and other plastic bags?
Bags used to hold and transport produce are exempt, as are laundry and dry-clean bags, newspaper bags, and bags used to contain or wrap frozen foods, meat or fish.
Q: What can retailers offer instead?
If any retail establishment provides a checkout bag to customers, the bag shall comply with the requirements of being a Reusable Bag or a Recyclable Paper Bag.
– Reusable Bag: a bag specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse, with handles which are stitched and not heat-fused. The bag cannot be made of any virgin, non-recycled plastic.
– Recyclable Paper Bag: a paper bag that is 100% recyclable including the handles, contains at least 40% post-consumer paper content, and displays the words “Recyclable” and “made from 40% post-consumer recycled content (or other applicable amount) in a visible manner on the outside of the bag.
Q: Can I offer “compostable” or “biodegradable” bags?
Unfortunately, no. Most bags that claim to be “biodegradable” or “compostable” only break-down in certain temperatures and with special processes. If not disposed of properly, these bags can still cause harm to wildlife and have a negative impact on the environment.
Q: What happens if a retailer continues to offer single-use plastic bags at the counter?
On first violation, a retail establishment will be issued a warning notice. If an additional violation happens within one year of being issued a warning notice, retailers will be fined:
– $50 for the first offence.
– $100 for the second offense and all subsequent offenses. Payment of such fines may be enforced through civil action in the City Municipal Court.
All revenue collected as a result of violations shall be deposited into a designated city fund for furthering community education and outreach on recycling and waste matters.
Q: Are there any cases where a retailer will be exempt?
The director of the Office of Sustainability may exempt a retail establishment for a period of one year if it’s found that the requirements of the ordinance would cause undue hardship to a retail establishment.
Click here to read the “Reduction of Single-Use Checkout Bags by Retail Establishments” in full.
Any questions or comments? Feel free to contact the Office of Sustainability at