Survey results show 66% approve plastic bag ban

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — The town of Portsmouth has released the results of its Single-use Plastic Bag Survey. According to the results, approximately two thirds (66.3%) of the 678 survey respondents approve of banning single-use plastic bags. 

The city of Newport and town of Middletown previously passed ordinances banning plastic bags earlier this year. Both ordinances went into effect on Nov. 1. The town of Jamestown has also passed an ordinance banning single use plastic bags. 

The city of Boston is also expected to vote this week on banning plastic bags

Featured below are the Portsmouth results, as published verbatim on the town website. Approximately  678 people filled out the survey. 

Nov 2017 Single-use Plastic Bag Survey


To provide information to Town decision-makers on the potential steps improve the environment by enacting rules and regulations for the use of plastics, in particular single-use plastic bags, the Town designed a survey to get public information to supplement other data.

The Single-use Plastic Bag Survey that was conducted both online and with paper submission from Oct 24 through Nov 15, 2017, asked about the public use of re-usable alternatives and how they disposed of plastic bags.

The complete survey results are provided in the below document links.

Plastic Bag Survey Cover Letter

Plastic Bag Survey Document – Attachment A

Response Summary and Questions 1-6 Data – Attachment B

Why or Why Not? Question 6 Comments – Attachment C

Other Comments – Question 11 – Attachment D


A survey to gather information from the public was started on October 24, 2017 and completed on November 15, 2015. A copy of the survey is in Attachment A. A survey summary, and question results data are in Attachment B. Respondent’s comments in Questions 6 and 11 are in Attachments C and D respetively.

  • A total of 678 people responded to the survey (573 on-line and 105 by hard copy submission).
  • Hard copies were made available either by download or drop boxes at the Town Hall, the Free Public Library and Clements’ Marketplace.
  • The following demographic data was gathered
  • Residents of Portsmouth – 90%
  • Age Groups – Under 25 – 4.7%, 26-55 – 49%, 56 and Over – 45%. 1.2% preferred not to answer.
  • Family Income per year – Less than $25, 000 – 3.1%, $25,000 to $50,000 – 10.9%, $50,000 to $100,000 – 25.9%, over $100,000 – 35%. 25% preferred not to answer.
  • Confidence Level was greater than 95% and Confidence Interval was less than 5 %. No appreciable difference in the results was noted between the various demographic groups.

Taking Customer Bags to the Stores

Question 1 asked if respondents took their own bags to the GROCERY STORE when shopping.

  • Nearly Half (47.5%) said they took their own bags to the store either All the Time (21.3%) or More Than 75% of the Time (26.3%).
  • 37.3% said they took their own bags to the store Less Than Half the Time (18.4%) or Never (18.9%).

Question 2 asked for the same information as Question 1 but for going to stores OTHER THAN the grocery store. 

  • Nearly half (47.9%) said they never took their own bags when shopping at those stores.
  • Only 23.6% said they took their own bags either 75 % or more (15%) or always (8.6%).

Use and Disposal of Plastic Bags

Question 3 asked what respondents do with plastic bags they bring home. They were asked to provide multiple responses on what they did with bags. The following were the results.

  • I reuse some once (e.g., for animal waste, wet trash, etc.) and then throw them in the trash. 68.1%
  • I re-use some of them more than one time before discarding them. 33.5%
  • I discard only the ones that are soiled, in the regular trash. 25.4%
  • I save the clean ones in a separate container for disposal 35.6%
  • I just throw each individual bag in the regular trash 5.2%

An interesting observation is that over 68% of the respondents reuse plastic bags for some useful purpose and will be compelled to find an alternate means if plastic bags are banned. 31% either throw their soiled bags (25.4%) or throw all their bags (5%), individually, directly into the regular trash.

Later Disposal Practices

Question 4 asked about saving bags for later disposal.

  • Over half (57.7%) returned their bags to a recycle point. About a quarter (23%) accumulated bags in a separate bag and then disposed of them in the regular trash.
  • 19.2% did not save bags for disposal at all.

Plastic Bag Ban Effect on the Environment.

In Question 5, respondents were asked (on a scale of zero to 100) how strongly they felt that the elimination of single use plastic bags would have appositive effect on the environment.

  • The average response was 73/100 with responses ranging from zero to 100.
  • To show the range and density of responses, a scatter chart is provided in Attachment B.

Note: The problem with this question may be that the respondents were not specifically asked how they thought a plastic bag ban in “Portsmouth alone” would affect the total environment and many respondents may have answered the question with respect to the effect of a wider ban (e.g., National or global). 

Support of Plastic Bag Ban

Question 6 asked if the respondent supported the enactment of a ban on single-use plastic bags. Two thirds (66.3%) said “Yes” and about a quarter (23.9%) said, “No”. 9.8% were “Unsure”.

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