Sen. Joshua Miller has submitted a bill in Rhode Island that will place a ban on plastic bags, foam polystyrene and single-serve plastic bottles. In March, a Senate hearing took place, and Miller was the only person speaking in favor of the bill. All of the testimony from this hearing opposed the ban, and called for an improved recycling program.
Many companies, including The Rhode Island Food Dealers Association, Dart Container Corporation, and the American Chemistry Council, testified and spoke out against the legislation. Much of the opposition centered on how all three of the items in Miller’s bill can be recycled. Stephen Rosario of the American Chemistry Council explained that although foam can be recycled like any other recyclable material, it becomes trash if people liter, and do not take the responsibility seriously.
In Rhode Island, drop-off sites are available, and foam is accepted and recycled there on a daily basis. One of the newer sites at Central Landfill has been collecting foam for 18-months. The Rhode Island Resources Recovery Corporation (RIRRC) operates the Central Landfill and discussed at the hearing the success this program has had and continues to have.
Dart Container Corporation, one of the largest makers of foam polystyrene coffee cups and food containers, runs collection sites, one through RIRRC, to make it easier for citizens to recycle foam materials. Dart collects the foam cups and foam packaging and delivers it to a recycling plant in Pennsylvania. The foam is then converted into many different products, such as rulers, tape dispensers, and the cores for rolls of receipt paper.
Sarah Reeves, the RIRRC’s director of public policy, explained that voluntary foam drop-off programs have been a success, and the RIRRC is discussing the possibility of adding more foam collection sites in the state. Reeves referred to foam as a recyclable product, and during her testimony, advocated for fees on plastic bags, bottles, and foam. She explained that the money could fund a statewide liter-control and reduction program. Reeves concluded that bans are difficult to enforce, manage and monitor and they are very unlikely to work for foam since it is a recyclable, and a non-toxic substance.