Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=229480
Story Retrieval Date: 10/20/2014 4:43:57 AM CST

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Kevin Clifford/MEDILL

An ordinance to ban plastic bags in Chicago awaits a vote in City Chambers on Tuesday.


Winds of change blow plastic bag ban to City Hall

by Kevin Clifford
Mar 19, 2014


Plastic bags are gradually checking out of groceries and retail businesses across the country. In 2007, San Francisco instituted the first plastic bag ban, paving the way for other cities in California and beyond to follow suit. Seven years down the cleaner road, Chicago is poised to become the first major city in the Midwest to eliminate plastic bags, as well.

On Tuesday, a vote in the Committee on Health and Environmental Protection in Council Chambers could push through an ordinance banning plastic bags in Chicago, regardless of the size of the business. For the past two years, Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) has led this charge. In a recent article on The Huffington Post, Moreno wrote that he is “very optimistic” the ban will pass soon.

Not everyone, however, is optimistic about the growing popularity of bag bans in the United States. William Carteaux, president and CEO of the Society of the Plastics Industry, released a statement advocating for the recycling and reuse of plastic bags over all-out bans.

“Plastic retail carry-out bags are 100 percent recyclable and made from clean natural gas by American workers,” Carteaux said. “The truth is singling out one product that makes only less than one percent of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream will have no meaningful impact on reducing litter.”

Although plastic bags make up just a fraction of U.S. municipal solid waste, according to the EPA, the overall plastics recycling rate in 2012 was only 9 percent. Despite these low numbers, the national movement for plastic bag bans continues to grow.

“Our affiliates in California and Oregon have had a lot of success banning bags in cities throughout both states,” said Lisa Nikodem, campaign director for Environment Illinois. One of these affiliates, Environment California, announced on March 3 that the Golden State passed its 100th citywide bag ban.