Barrington Conservation Commission charged with tracking plastic bag ban

Barrington Conservation Commission charged with tracking plastic bag ban

Barrington Town Hall, Barrington, Rhode Island

Barrington Town Hall, Barrington, Rhode Island

The same group that advocated for a local plastic bag ban has been charged with developing criteria to measure the initiative’s impact.

Barrington’s Reusable Checkout Bag Initiative, which prohibits the distribution of plastic bags at the point of sale, officially went into effect on Jan. 1 after it was passed by the town council in October. The ban is scheduled to stay in effect until at least Jan. 31, 2015, when a sunset provision will automatically end the ban unless action is taken to keep it in place.

Town councilor Cynthia Coyne proposed this sunset provision. She also asked that the ordinance be placed on Monday night’s town council agenda to start a discussion on how the initiative’s effects will be tracked. Ms. Coyne said the town has become a leader through adopting the ban and other communities will now look to Barrington to see how the ordinance fares going forward.

To that end, Ms. Coyne said the town needs performance measures to judge exactly what type of impact the ordinance has had on the town.

Ms. Coyne suggested the conservation commission, which proposed the ban, be charged with looking at what types of criteria could be used to measure any impact generated by the ordinance.

Conservation commission chairwoman Cynthia Fuller said the town doesn’t have any baseline data to begin with but the matter is on the commission’s agenda for a meeting Tuesday night. Jan. 8. Ms. Coyne said the commission could check with some of the organizations that supported the proposal to see if there are any suggestions for methods of tracking the ordinance’s effects.

Ms. Coyne suggested the conservation commission return on June 1 and Dec. 1 of each year with updates on the matter. She also suggested some of the measures could include how residents and businesses are feeling about the ordinance.

The council unanimously supported Ms. Coyne’s motion.

After the meeting, Ms. Coyne said she isn’t concerned that the group who advocated for the proposal is devising measures to judge its impact. She said it’s important to get the ball rolling with the sunset provision in place and there will be plenty of opportunity for the town council to assess the information provided an potentially tweak the criteria used to judge the ban’s effect going forward.

“You have to start from somewhere,” she said.

Ms. Coyne also said the conservation commission has familiarity with the topic and the public will have an opportunity to weigh in on the criteria being used. Both conservation commission and town council meetings are open to the public.