Debate Continues Over Proposed Evanston Shopping Bag Tax
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UPDATED 10/25/11 9:27 a.m.
EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — Paper or plastic? The City of Evanston continues to consider a five cent tax for using either for shopping.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports, the proposal calls for consumers to pay 5 cents for every plastic or paper shopping bag. The Evanston Environmental Board has recommended that the Evanston City Council adopt the ordinance, and presented its recommendations before the council on Monday evening.
In June, aldermen directed the 10-member board to study both a ban and a fee and how such ordinances been implemented in other communities, as well as to meet with local merchants and environmental groups before making a recommendation to the council on a possible ordinance.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports
Paige Finnegan sits on the environmental board, and says the city and the State of Illinois are both behind the environmental trend.
“There’s another great community – Santa Monica, California – that is very similar to Evanston. It’s right outside of Los Angeles, and they did it. So why can’t we do it?” she said.
Several other cities have also implemented similar bans, she said.
“Brownsville, Texas, has a ban. I think that they actually charge a dollar a bag,” she said. “So Brownsville, Texas, which is a border town, it is primary migrant, a very diverse community and they have a bag ban. If Brownsville, Texas has one, why can’t we?”
Finnegan says the tax would encourage people to bring their own bags and think twice about being more environmentally friendly.
“We all have those recyclable bags in our trunk that we, every time, forget to bring in so a a fee like this or a ban, people will say, ‘Oh, I’ve go to go get them,’ ” she said.
Several citizens spoke out for and against the ordinance before the meeting.
“We’re not changing mercantile tradition. We’re trying to change consumer habits in which people are just willing to bring their own reusable bags to all the businesses they go to,” said Andrew Hoba.
Certain bags would not incur the fee, including those for bulk items, produce, meat, prescriptions, alcohol, and restaurant leftovers.
“We have to stop treating this as a warm fuzzy issue and really understand what we’re asking business people to do. It’s really not fair when you’re exempting restaurants, dry cleaners, You’re not going to eliminate plastic bags. I’m looking here at equity and what are goal is here,” said Ald. Judy Fiske (1st).
“Five cents a bag is not going to accomplish this goal,’ added Ald. Donald Wilson (4th), “It’s a punishment with an added tax. We’re becoming focused on deterrents, we’re not really thinking about the alternatives. This fee is going to alienate people. We’re creating resentment and frustration.”
“I’m very much in favor of carrying your own bag but I think there are a couple of things. We don’t have enough information here. How do other communities implement these programs? I want to know how its done elsewhere? asked Alderman Anne Rainey.
Tom Rubenthal, owner of The Happy Husky Bakery, 2601 Prairie Ave., says a tax would hurt his business.
“There’s another pet supply store six blocks away in Wilmette. If somebody has the choice between shopping at a more expensive store within Evanston or going six months away to save money, that’s really not a hard decision to make,” Rubenthal said.
City officials estimate Evanston residents use about 25 million plastic bags each year and contribute to the destruction of about 3,500 trees annually through their paper bag consumption, although some in the community have questioned those numbers.
Prior to the meeting, 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 City Council has must next take a vote on the proposal.