Rhode Island Senate plans hearing on 'bag ban' bill

The Senate Environment and Agriculture Committee heard testimony Wednesday afternoon on a bill to ban plastic shopping bags in Rhode Island.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Frank Lombardo, a Johnston Democrat, would apply to businesses with annual sales above $5 million, beginning in 2015. Plastic shopping bags would be banned in all stores beginning in 2016.

There would be exceptions, such as florist sleeves and barrier bags used in meat and produce sections.

Dozens of people were expected to testify at the hearing, including environmental advocates, municipal leaders, and concerned citizens.

The nonprofit group Environment Rhode Island says 100 million plastic shopping bags are used and discarded every year in Rhode Island. The group says plastic bags don't degrade, create a constant source of litter and endanger wildlife.

"You see them everywhere: on roadsides, in storm drains, in trees and in waterways. Then once they make their way out into the marine environment, places like Narragansett Bay and off Rhode Island's coast, they threaten wildlife that can get entangled in them or choke on them," said Channing Jones of Environment Rhode Island.

NBC 10 was unable to track down anyone from the plastic bag manufacturing industry for comment.