The Block Island Times

State Rep. Donna Walsh recycling again

By Judy Tierney | Feb 20, 2013
Source: File photo Donna Walsh

Rhode Island could become the first state in the country to enact a plastics recycling program designed to decrease marine debris.

Pristine as our waters may appear to the naked eye, trash washes ashore every day, and in greater quantities after storms. Walk any Block Island beach and you will be sure to find plastic trash in the form of bags, water and pop bottles, six-pack holders, food wrappers, straws and Styrofoam containers of all types that make their way to shore from wherever they’ve been tossed.

Now state Representative Donna Walsh, who represents Block Island in the General Assembly, hopes to put an end to this seemingly endless stream of flotsam with the Marine Debris Act, which would make packaging manufacturers responsible for these waste products. Currently, the cost of disposal of these products has not been borne by manufacturers, but rather by cities and towns. Walsh says producers have had little incentive to choose environmentally friendly packaging.

The Marine Debris Act, still in draft form, is similar to the stewardship bill Walsh sponsored in the State House of Representatives last year that was enacted for paint products; it teamed paint companies, paint vendors and consumers in a recycling program for leftover paints.

If the plastics recycling bill is passed, Walsh says Rhode Island will be the first state in the country to have such a program. She hopes that it would eventually reduce the amount of packaging products on our beaches. “The best way to reduce marine debris is not to produce the trash in the first place,” said Walsh.

Walsh has been supported in this effort by environmental groups, such as the National Resources Defense Council and Rhode Island Clean Water Action. According to scientists at the NRDC, 80 percent of marine debris is plastic. NRDC senior scientist Allen Hershkowitz has called for a new approach to reduce the impacts of plastic packaging on our oceans.

To register support for Walsh’s bill, visit the Clean Water Action website,

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