Date of Award

2019

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs

Department

Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Richard Burroughs

Abstract

This research surveyed 200 coastal and noncoastal Rhode Island residents to determine their perceptions of marine plastic debris and their support for plastic and paper bag legislation. The results suggest that one’s residency, or geographic distance from the coast, has no bearing on plastic and paper bag policy support and that most participants, 77%, classify plastic pollution as a serious threat to various types of wildlife, the marine environment, human health, and Rhode Island’s economy. The data also seems to suggest support for a statewide plastic bag ban and a statewide fee of 10 cents on paper bags as a means to address the problem. Approximately 77% of participants support the bag ban while 68% support, or are neutral towards, a statewide paper bag fee of 10 cents. While this research was being completed, Governor Gina Raimondo’s Task Force to Tackle Plastics published its final report in February of 2019 ultimately proposing that the state enact both a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags and a statewide 5 cent fee on recyclable paper bags. Rhode Island Senate bill S0410, the Plastic Waste Reduction Act, was modeled after the final report’s recommendations to the Governor and was introduced on February 27, 2019. The results from this research generally support and endorse the recommendations and S0410. Approximately 86% of participants were also found to be aware of, and 75% were found to be highly knowledgeable of, the severity of this global issue. The high levels of concern, awareness and knowledge are associated with participants’ pro-ecological worldviews measured by the New Ecological Paradigm.

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