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Plastic Bag Ban Goes into Effect Saturday, So Do Your Environmental Duty

By Margaret Paulson in News on Jul 31, 2015 12:30PM

Plastic Bag Tree [Tim Parkinson]

Chicago’s plastic bag ban is set to take effect on Saturday, Aug. 1. Well, kind of. The 2014 ordinance bans the typical thin plastic bags at chain stores and those with more than 10,000 square feet. Smaller stores have one more year before they must comply.

While it seems like a great eco-friendly initiative, some environmental activists are calling it anything but. That’s because many stores, like Jewel-Osco and Wal-Mart, are making thicker, reusable plastic bags in order to skate by the ordinance due to a loophole. For example, Jewel Osco’s new reusable plastic bags are thicker, can hold up to 22 pounds, and are meant to be reused up to 125 times. The problem? Jewel is giving them away for free, which creates little incentive for customers to reuse them.

Some people think the ban will actually bring more waste. Jordan Parker, founder and director of Bring Your Bag Chicago, told the Tribune’s Eric Zorn that it will be "a lose-lose for the environment and consumers. This ordinance will create a worse environmental problem, and the kicker is that Chicagoans will literally be paying for it," he said, and the environmental costs of paper bags aren’t much better.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who is the chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Health and Environmental Protection, is heading the charge to close the loophole.

“[The loophole] is a result of us being too practical and too reasonable,” Cardenas told the Sun-Times. “Instead of them doing something creative and environmentally friendly, they do the complete opposite. It disappoints you.”

We think it’s definitely time for people to get more responsible about their bag use. Invest in a few good quality reusable bags, preferably remade from recyclable material. Have you done that but you just keep forgetting to bring them with you? We know the feeling. Keep extras in your car, or hang them on a hook by your front door so you always see them before heading out to the stores.

San Francisco has had a ban since 2007, and Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland and Austin also have bans. Hawaii has a law similar to ours, and California is working on a statewide ban. It’s do-able.