Chicago retailers and shoppers are ready for 7-cent tax on bags

plastic bag from CVS pharmacy

By Beixi (Bessie) Xu

Chicago retailers and shoppers are well prepared for the new tax of 7 cents on plastic and paper bags that will take effect on Feb.1.

“All our employees are fully trained on what to do with the plastic bags and how to handle the restriction that is coming up,” said Shenika Hill, senior manager of Mariano’s at 333 E. Benton Pl. downtown. “We send each person to do a bagger training program and once they pass the course they are fully promoted to be a general.”

Galiya Uralova, 30-year-old “stay home mom” who has two kids, said she is resigned to paying 7 cents for the bags.

“I always buy lots of stuff, like milk and food. Plastic bags are more convenient for me to carry, and I can put them into the stroller. I don’t think the 7 cents bag tax will affect my behavior,” said Uralova.

However, Laura Johnson, an art historian in Chicago, contended that everyone should take their own bags instead of using plastic bags while shopping.

“Restricting plastic bags use is excellent for the environment, we always use our own bags, and we never use plastic bags,” said Johnson.

Gail Kruse, a retired Chicagoan who had just finished shopping in Mariano’s, said she uses only one plastic bag to carry all her purchases.

“I may not come here next time, or choose to come a different time when I can bring a bag. I think I would shop more in the suburbs, because I have a car,” said Kruse.

This is the third recent plastic bag restriction in Chicago, now applying to paper as well as plastic, and it was originally scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1. Shops smaller than 10,000 square feet are exempt. Two cents will go to the retail store, and 5 cents will go to the city to provide needed revenue.

After previous plastic bag restrictions, large retailers added paper bags to meet consumers’ needs. But aldermen concluded that switch didn’t make the city more environmentally friendly.

“We already have reusable bags. One of our popular bags is a box bag which is 6 dollars, and it carries lots of groceries, and we still have a 1-dollar bag. We have a variety of reusable bags that our customers can choose from,” said Hill.

“Luckily for us, this time we have a program where you get five cents credit back for the bags that you bring of your own bag. So hopefully the customer will take that route instead of paying the 7 cents bag tax,” added Hill.

Photo at top: A plastic bag at a Chicago CVS pharmacy store.(Beixi Xu/MEDILL)