Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Richard Burroughs


Single-use plastic debris is becoming more abundant in the ocean, and is having adverse impacts on the environment and human health. According to Pennington (2016), it is predicted by 2050, there will be more plastic debris in the ocean than there are fish. Some in Rhode Island seek to have a series of statewide single-use plastic bans to be implemented in the near future to lessen Rhode Island’s role in creating plastic debris. The objective of this study is to gain attitudinal knowledge of the residents of Rhode Island, towards the single-use plastics initiative and to gain insight on what single-use plastics residents would support banning to create a potential road map for the state to use when looking for the next step towards the state’s goal on banning single-use plastics.

Anonymous surveys were distributed using online forums and news media sources with questions driven to learn about resident’s attitudes, behaviors and knowledge of single-use plastic bans and plastic pollution as a whole. Residents were grouped into municipalities with and without plastic bag bans already in place to determine if there was a relationship between resident’s behaviors and policy support and living in a municipality with a plastic bag ban. 586 residents representing 36 of the 39 municipalities in Rhode Island participated in this study providing input on their support towards a variety of potential single-use plastic bans statewide. The use of reusable alternatives and views of statewide bans were statistically significant based on self-identification of being environmentally friendly/cautious, which could be seen in behavioral and policy spillover effects.

Based on public perceptions on the various single-use plastic bans, the state of Rhode Island should first ban plastic bags statewide then plastic bottles second, after that it is inconclusive what the respondents want based on the results of this study. Knowledge intervention is necessary to break barriers for pro-environmental behaviors and policies to help cope with plastic pollution mitigation. More research should be conducted looking more in depth at other potential variables to determine the driving factor behind respondent’s views and behaviors that were not incorporated in this study.



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