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Evanston Weighing Tax On Both Paper And Plastic Shopping Bags

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Plastic Bag (Credit: CBS)

Plastic Bag (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 10/24/11 – 5:01 p.m.

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EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — Residents in Evanston are one step closer to living in the first community in Illinois that will charge for paper or plastic bags at the grocery and other stores.

As CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports, the Evanston Environmental Board has recommended that the Evanston City Council adopt an ordinance that would have consumers paying 5 cents for every plastic or paper bag.

The debate over whether Evanston residents should pay for disposable bags has been going on for months.

Members of the Environmental Board said they’ve reviewed public comments, talked to retailers and recyclers, and they believe the bag fee can work.

Not everyone agrees.

Louise Kent, headed home with five bags of groceries on Monday after spending more than $50 on the groceries. In the near future, she might have to tack on another quarter to pay for the bags.

“I’m not going to do that,” Kent shouted when asked about the proposed fee for bags. “That’s ridiculous.”

Kent was among those hoping the Evanston City Council won’t adopt an ordinance charging residents a 5-cent fee for every bag they accept from any retailer in the northern suburb.

“It’s just adding more money to our food bill, which is absolutely out of sight,” said Kent.

Supporters of the fee were hoping it would encourage consumers to skip the disposable bags and use recyclable bags.

“Who goes around with bags?” asked Evanston resident Jocelyn Davis. “I would probably end up paying the five cents.”

“I will bring my own bag, rather than pay,” said Evanston resident Ron Davis.

Environmentalists were just hoping to see less plastic trash on the streets and the landfills.

“These are things that typically don’t deteriorate,” said Ron Fleckman, President of Citizens’ Greener Evanston.

“I don’t feel as though that’s very supportive of small businesses,” said Monica Williams, owner of Hand Me Down, a children’s store in Evanston.

“I’m not computerized, so I’d have to have a manual way of keeping track of how many bags we sold, which is another piece of work in an already busy day,” Williams said.

“I don’t think it’s necessary,” said Evanston 4th Ward Ald. Don Wilson.

Wilson said he intends to vote against the proposal.

“What we have to do is educate people and change the mindset; change the way people think about things and not to throw them away,” said Wilson

A spokeswoman for Jewel grocery stores said the chain will “follow the local ordinance.”

Dominick’s chose not to comment at this point and the representatives of Whole Foods said the company does not use plastic bags and that all of their paper bags are made from recycled material.

The Evanston City Council will discuss the proposed ordinance at its meeting at 7:15 p.m. Monday. No vote was scheduled for Monday, but the public will be allowed to comment.

A bag ban has also been suggested in Chicago, but only affecting plastic bags. Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) is seeking an ordinance prohibiting big retailers from providing plastic bags to customers, and fining stores from $150 to $250 if they did not obey the law.

Moreno says takes 12 million barrels of oil each year, and they’re difficult to recycle. Furthermore, they can clog up the sewer system.

Moreno says if the outright ban doesn’t fly in the Chicago City Council, he’ll go to Plan B: charging a tax of 10 cents on retailers for every plastic bag they buy.

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