Eliminate waste before it is created.
Maximize separation and diversion of materials that can be recycled, composted or processed for reuse.
Click here to learn more about composting in Providence.
City Operations and Services
Implement important solid waste strategies and policies in City buildings and operations and through solid waste services to the public.
Land Use and Business Development
Ensure land use and business development strategies to support waste reduction and diversion goals.
City of Providence Retail Plastic Bag Reduction Act
The “Retail Plastic Bag Reduction Act” was developed by the Providence City Council with input from the City’s Office of Sustainability, the Racial and Environmental Justice Committee (REJC) and other community organizations. The ordinance was approved unanimously by the City Council on Earth Day, April 22, 2019 and signed into law by Mayor Jorge O. Elorza on May 1st, 2019.
The ordinance will go into effect on October 22, 2019.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does the ordinance do?
The ordinance seeks to reduce the number of plastic checkout bags in the City, curb litter in the streets, protect our waterways and marine environment while reducing greenhouse gas emissions through encouraging the use of reusable bags by prohibiting 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 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 “biodegradable” or “compostable” 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.
Q: How do I know if I’m considered a “retailer”?
Retail establishment means any person, corporation, partnership, business venture, or vendor that sells or provides merchandise, goods, or materials directly to a customer, whether for or not for profit. This includes (but is not limited to) restaurants pharmacies, convenience and grocery stores, liquor stores, seasonable and temporary businesses, jewelry stores, and household goods stores. “Retail establishment” does not include sales by residents at their homes.