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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — Narragansett Town Council member Ewa Dzwierzynski often sees bags, plastics and other trash washing up on the shore of Narragansett’s Salt Pond, near her home.

Dzwierzynski is trying to change that with an ordinance.

“This ordinance is important and long overdue to protect our environment and marine life,” Dzwierzynski said Monday.

In addition to bags, the ordinance addresses regulation of Styrofoam containers and plastic straws, which she called “top culprits in ocean plastic pollution.”

The ordinance would take effect in May 2022, just before the start of the next beach season. It also includes the means for businesses to request an exemption for up to a year because of supply chain disruption issues.

“I did speak to three restaurant owners and they were OK with the fact that this addressed that,” she said.

Dzwierzynski’s ordinance, which the council referred to the Conservation Commission, would impose a fine not to exceed $200 for a first violation; $350 for a second violation within any 12-month period; and $500 for each additional violation within any 12-month period. Every 30 days that a violation continues will constitute a separate offense.

Council member Deborah Kopech said she’s supportive of the ordinance, and has avoided single-use plastics.

“As far as Styrofoam is concerned, hate the stuff. If it appears in our house, we pack it up and take it to Johnston to the recycling center, where it can be reused,” she said.

Kopech said that some of the exemptions in the proposed ordinance might be able to be reduced, and also said work needs to be done on how it would be enforced.

Councilor Patrick Murray said the town should pause for two years before considering a plastics ban. Businesses have had a tough enough time dealing with COVID and a lack of employees, he said.

“I don’t want to place another burden on businesses,” he said. “If somebody throws plastic in the water in Narragansett, it’s definitely not a resident.”

A law to curb single-use plastic bags is not a new initiative. But the United States is years behind other countries in such efforts, Dzwierzynski said.

Narragansett’s Conservation commission has worked for several years to bring such a measure to fruition.

Council President Jesse Pugh, President Pro Tem Susan Cicilline Buonanno and Kopech all said parts of the Conservation Commission’s ordinance should be incorporated.

“I just find their version very clean, direct and vetted,” Pugh said.

Dzwierzynski counted 17 municipalities in Rhode Island that have laws to curb single-use plastics.

Among them is neighboring South Kingstown.

The town adopted the plastic reduction ordinance in June 2018 and enforcement started in January 2019.

South Kingstown’s ordinance bans retailers giving plastic convenient bags to patrons as part of the checkout process. It does not cover barrier bags for meat or vegetables. With a first offense, businesses are warned. Offenders can be fined $250 on a second offense, and subsequent violations could see a $250 fine for each day that the violation continues.

South Kingstown suspended the ordinance during the first months of COVID to help struggling businesses, but it has since gone back into effect.

North Kingstown implemented its own ordinance in 2019.  It also has several exceptions. Laundry dry cleaning bags, pharmacy prescription bags and pet waste bags are among permissible plastic bags. The first offense warrants a warning, while subsequent offenses carry increasingly hefty fines.

“As a coastal town that relies so much on fishing, boating and recreation, Narragansett has the most to lose if we are not added to this list,” Dzwierzynski said.

Conservation Commission Chairman Brian Wagner said the commission polled businesses about its ordinance and there were no objections, other than that businesses didn’t want to be saddled with bags that were suddenly unusable because of the law.

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