By Bob Seidenberg
Single-use plastic bags issued at the point of sale may soon be banned at stores and restaurants citywide under a proposal backed by the City Council’s Human Services Committee on Monday, May 1.
Larger retailers offering shoppers compostable paper bags instead would have to charge 10 cents a bag under the committee’s action.
In a memo to the committee, Cara Pratt, the city’s Sustainability and Resilence coordinator, noted that “The City of Evanston was the first community in the State of Illinois to ban thin film plastic bags at large retailer stores.
“However, the desired effect of that legislation has been circumvented by large retailers that instead offer thicker film plastic bags, deemed to be ‘reusable,’” she said.
“Several solutions to this circumvention have been proposed over the course of 3 years,” Pratt wrote, outlining two proposed single-use bag fee ordinances for consideration.
Earlier start date
The plastic bag ban ultimately approved by the committee is citywide – all single-use point-of-sale plastic bags and all pre-checkout (produce) bags, Pratt explained later.
The proposal includes no exemptions for restaurants, nonchain stores or retailers smaller than 10,000 square feet.
Under the committee’s action, the ban would go into effect Aug. 1 of this year at the larger retailers, rather than April 1, 2024, under the original proposal. Paper bags made up of at least 40% post-consumer recycled content would be allowed, but larger retailers would have to charge a 10-cent per-bag fee.
In discussion, Council Member Bobby Burns (5th Ward), said he was opposed to any measure “that did not include a communitywide plastic ban, whether it be for businesses under 10,000 square feet or for restaurants. As I stated before, I have not heard one single concern about the plastic bag ban.”
Council Member Eleanor Revelle (7th Ward), said she preferred an earlier proposal exempting smaller retailers as “an important way to go.”
“We heard loud and clear from our smaller retailers when we were looking at the original version of this [that it] was really going to be hardship for them,” Revelle said.
Council Member Devon Reid (8th Ward) said he was fully in support of the citywide plastic bag ban and even beyond that, banning other materials such as Styrofoam packaging as well.
“When I walk through my community I see plastic bags,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s from a big retailer or a small one. I don’t think the logic would apply to too many other cases – that it’s OK if a small business is polluting our environment but it’s not OK if a large business is. It’s not OK for anyone to do it.”
The committee ultimately voted 5-0 for the Aug. 1 ban. The proposed ordinance next goes to the full City Council, which has the final decision on the matter.