A new citywide Chicago ordinance cracking down on carryout plastic bags takes effect Saturday.
Chicago's new ban on plastic bags covers stores larger than 10,000 square feet. Smaller retailers have another year to comply.
Some larger retailers, like Jewel-Osco, are offering thicker plastic bags that are reusable, which are currently allowed under the ordinance. Proponents of the plastic bag ban argue that this workaround defeats the purpose of the law, designed to help reduce the amount of plastic bags that are produced.
Alds. Joe Moreno (1st) and George Cardenas (12th), who spearheaded the plastic bag ban, have reportedly asked retailers using the thicker plastic bags to ditch them after they use up their current supply. The aldermen say they will work to tweak the ordinance to outlaw the thicker bags if retailers continue to use them.
"We told them in no uncertain terms that these bags have to go," Moreno told the Chicago Tribune. "We told them we would change the law and you can go back to the drawing board."
Plastic bags are problematic because they do not biodegrade, and over time they break down to smaller, toxic pieces that contaminate the water and soil, according to proponents of the ban. Additionally, plastic bags get stuck in drains, clog landfills and cause other environmental headaches. Plastic bag production also requires oil.
Industry groups oppose the plastic bag ban, saying the move will hurt businesses.
Tanya Triche, vice president and general counsel at the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, issued this statement Friday about Chicago's plastic bag ban:
Chicago Retail Merchants Association (CRMA), a committee of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA), has been a staunch opponent of the Chicago plastic bag ban that takes effect on Saturday, August 1, 2015. As written, the ban puts all of the burden on the retailer and not the end user. San Francisco and more than 100 cities in California have moved away from the model passed by the Chicago City Council because it failed to change consumer behavior. Meanwhile, retailers have told us they've had to pay anywhere from $40,000 to $3 million to acquire bags that meet the legal requirements of this ban.
The overwhelming majority of cities around the country have implemented a ban plus fee model which has proven to be successful in getting consumers to bring their own reusable bags and cutting down on the number of bags that end up in landfills and on our streets as litter. We hope the Chicago City Council will take a more comprehensive approach to encouraging people to bring their own bags that truly helps the environment while keeping the cost of goods low.