Chicago Bans Plastic Bags; Council Decision Prompts Mixed Reaction

Thursday, 01 May 2014 07:06 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Chicago's ban on plastic bags in super market chain stores has been approved by the city council, which on Wednesday voted 36-10 to ban plastic bags in an attempt to make the Windy City more environmentally friendly.

The plastic bag ban, which was supported by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, will go into effect in August of 2015 and applies only to chain stores, which are defined as either being a franchise of 1,000 or more feet or as one of three or more stores owned by the same owner, according to The Chicago Tribune. Smaller retailers will have to eliminate plastic bags at their locations one year later.

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With its plastic bag ban, Chicago follows in the footsteps of several other cities such as Seattle, which has enforced a ban since July 1, 2012, and San Francisco, which was the first major city to issue a ban in 2007.

"This is the right step to do," Emanuel said regarding the plastic bag ban. "It puts the city on the right path as it relates to its environmental policy," the mayor added.

The leading proponents of the ban include Chicago Alderman George Cardenas, who compared those who use plastic bags to "Neanderthals."

Plastic bags "clogs[sic] our drains, sewers and waterways. . . We’re not Neanderthals, we can do better and we should," Cardenas said, according to The Tribune.

The minority on the council argued that such a ban might adversely effect commerce.

Proponents of the ban have "failed to take into account the affects that this ban will have on all the people and the businesses of the city of Chicago," Ald. Nicholas Sposato said.

Additionally, plastic bag makers and retailers who were opposed to the ban warned that it would result in more shoppers relying on paper bags, which they say are more costly and would result in higher prices for consumers.

Environmentalists, while they supported the measure overall, reportedly expressed concerns that the ban did not go far enough, considering that paper bags were still permitted.

"I am glad that the conversation has been started, but I am concerned about the big picture issues," Jordan Parker, executive director of the grass-roots campaign Bring Your Bag Chicago, told The Wall Street Journal. "I don't think this is adequately going to address those things, and in fact I think it will make them worse. The best thing I hope for now is that it will be amended."

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