The Chicago City Council has placed a ban on plastic bags from large retail stores. The ordinance will be in effect starting August 1st of 2015. The initial ordinance will exempt dine-in or takeout restaurants and any store that is not defined as a “chain store” until August 1st 2016.
According to Ald. George Cardenas (12th Ward), chairman of the Health and Environmental Protection Committee, it costs the city 17 cents to handle and discard each bag, citing statistics from San Francisco’s analyses on plastic bag usage.
“The time has come for us to act; for us to push an environmental agenda,” Cardenas said. Critics say that storeowners may end up deciding to increase their prices on goods because the paper bags cost more. The American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) disagrees with the ban, pointing out that the U.S. plastic bag manufacturing and recycling business employs 30,800 across the country, including 3,000 in Illinois.
“It’s for a new Chicago, a better Chicago,” said city Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno said. Chicago’s ban will follow in the footsteps of other cities that have banned plastic bag usage, such as Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland (Ore.), Edmonds (Wa.), Bellingham (Wa.), and Washington, D.C.
According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, less than five percent of individuals living in California who use plastic bags will bother to recycle them. Californians alone “use 19 million single-use plastic bags a year, amounting to 147,000 tons of unnecessary waste that doesn’t biodegrade,” the site says.
Supporters of the ordinance estimate that 3.7 million plastic bags are used citywide daily and they estimate that between 3-5 percent of those become litter. The ban was passed in Chicago with a vote of 36-10. Fines will run between $300 and $500 each time the ordinance is violated.