Chicago Approves Ban On Plastic Shopping Bags

Chicago has become the latest U.S. city to approve a ban on plastic shopping bags.

The City Council voted overwhelmingly in favor of a partial plastic bag ban in Chicago on Wednesday, the Chicago Tribune reports. The proposal was backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and passed with a vote of 36-10.

The new ordinance will first go into effect in August 2015, when retailers occupying stores that are more than 10,000 square foot will no longer be allowed to offer plastic bags. The ban will be extended to smaller chain stores and franchises in August 2016, while small independent or non-franchise stores and restaurants will not be affected by the legislation.

Fines run between $300 and $500 each time the ordinance is violated.

Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st), the ordinance’s lead sponsor, said a yes vote for the bill was in the best interests of both the environment and the economy, DNAinfo Chicago reports.

Other aldermen didn’t see it that way.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) opposed and voted against the ordinance because she was concerned about how the additional costs associated with providing paper bags — which cost three times the amount of plastic — may impact her efforts to attract a new grocery store tenant for an empty space in her South Side district, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Grocers are already reluctant to come to my community, and we’re gonna give them more reason by banning plastic bags,” Hairston said Wednesday, the Sun-Times reports. “I’m tired of focusing on things that hurt people instead of helping people.”

Some retail groups also fear the ban will impact the economy negatively.

“The city council has approved an ordinance that will raise the cost of doing business in Chicago and nothing for the environment,” Tanya Triche, vice president and general counsel of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said in a statement reported by ABC Chicago. “Driving up expenses for retailers and forcing customers to pay more at the store while not helping the environment flies in the face of the city’s goal to make Chicago one of the nation’s greenest cities and support companies that have invested significantly in Chicago’s neighborhoods.”

Supporters of the ordinance estimate that 3.7 million plastic bags are used citywide daily and that between 3 and 5 percent of them become litter, getting stuck in drains and causing flooding, clogging landfills and jamming recycling machinery.

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