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Ordinance To Exempt Restaurants, Small Stores From Plastic Bag Ban

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Suzanne Le Mignot Suzanne Le Mignot
Suzanne Le Mignot serves as CBS 2 Chicago’s general assignment...
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Aldermen have agreed to a compromise on a plan to ban plastic bags, which would allow restaurants and mom-and-pop stores to keep using them, but prohibit large retailers from placing merchandise in the ubiquitous plastic bags.

The amended ordinance would exempt all restaurants from the ban, as well as small independent retailers – stores which have a size of less than 10,000 square feet, and which are not part of a chain of three or more stores.

The City Council Committee on Health and Environmental Protection was scheduled to vote on the compromise Thursday afternoon, ahead of a vote by the full City Council next week.

“If I can’t use a plastic bag, I don’t know what else I can use,” shopper Efrem Lee said.

Lee doesn’t plan to use reusable grocery bags already sold by many stores.

Under the ordinance, retailers with more than 10,000-square-feet of space would have to stop providing plastic bags to customers by Aug. 1, 2015.

Smaller chain stores would have until Aug. 1, 2016 to stop using the bags.

Retailers would instead have to provide reusable bags and/or recyclable paper bags to their customers.

Stores could be fined $300 to $500 per offense for violating the ban.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who chairs the Health and Environmental Protection Committee, said the ban is all about reducing pollution.

The aldermen said plastic bags by the hundreds and thousands litter city streets in many wards.

“You see litter, and you see plastic, and you see plastic bags. That’s what you see,” he said. “And we clean it up on a daily basis. Every week we have a task force from the Streets and Sanitation [Department] to go out and clean.”

Many shoppers said they recycle the plastic bags they get at the store.

Addie Becker is among them. She said giving up her plastic bags won’t be a problem.

“There’s so much; the plastic bags just blowing around and ending up in the oceans and the waterways, that it’s probably going to be better for the environment,” she said.

Another shopper, Jeff Terrell, pointed out many people use plastic bags to pick up after their dogs while taking them out to poop.

“My main concern definitely is for all the shelters like PAWS, the one on LaSalle, they heavily rely on plastic, and we need those plastic bags,” he said.

Cardenas estimated 3 billion plastic bags are used every year in Chicago, and the city spends $55 million to clean up litter, most of it plastic.

CBS 2 reached out to some major retailers that would be affected by the plastic bag ban, but has yet to hear back as of Wednesday afternoon.

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