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Chicago Alderman Wants To Ban Plastic Shopping Bags

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A plastic bag ends up as litter in this Chicago street scene. (CBS)

A plastic bag ends up as litter in this Chicago street scene. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The days of taking your purchases home in a plastic bag may be numbered in the city of Chicago.

A push is under way to make it illegal for city stores to pack up your goods in those bags, CBS 2’s Mike Parker reports.

Chicagoans use and throw away an estimated 3 billion plastic bags each year. And they’re not hard to spot being carried by shoppers all over town. Unfortunately, they’re also easy to spot everywhere, after they’ve been used and tossed. There seems to be a bumper crop this fall.

“India has banned them to the point where if you’re caught using them, you go to jail. Now, I’m not proposing that,” 1st Ward Ald. Proco Joe Moreno says

Moreno wants a new ordinance prohibiting big retailers from providing plastic bags to customers. Stores would be fined from $150 to $250 if they did not obey the law.

The billions of bags used in Chicago are not merely eyesores, Moreno argues. To make them takes 12 million barrels of oil each year, and they’re difficult to recycle. Plus, they can clog up the sewer system.

“I went out and talked to the guys that actually do it,” Moreno says. “They pull out hundreds of plastic bags out of our sewers. So, it’s costing the city money.”

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association is promising to battle the proposed bag ban.

“Certainly consumers are using them. They obviously want to continue to use them, so we continue to provide them,” spokeswoman Tanya Triche says.

Moreno says if the outright ban doesn’t fly in the Council, he’ll go to Plan B: charging a tax of 10 cents on retailers for every plastic bag they buy. He figures that could bring millions of dollars in revenue to the city and put pressure on stores to stop using the bags.

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