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They fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees, and no one in Evanston seems to want them around anymore: single-use bags. Ninth Ward Alderman Coleen Burrus proposed an ordinance to be introduced at the April 25 City Council meeting that would have taxed at five cents per bag single-use plastic bags such as grocery stores use and penalized stores that violated the ordinance.

The ordinance remains in the Administration and Public Works Committee, after discussion by the aldermen on the committee. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she hated plastic bags as much as anyone else but felt that a tax was “regressive.” She asked whether Ald. Burrus would instead accept a ban on plastic bags. Ald. Burrus agreed. The proposed ban was then extended to include all single-use bags, paper as well as plastic. Making paper bags, it was noted by a few speakers at the meeting, requires about four times as much energy as does making plastic bags.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who attended the committee meeting, said she had spoken with several small businesses near her own shop on Davis Street as well as on Central Street and none of the business owners knew about the ordinance. Ald. Burrus said she felt the City had not had sufficient conversation with grocery stores and other stores that supply customers with single-use bags to carry their purchases. She added that she hoped that the ban could be phased in with the distribution of reusable shopping bags to everyone in Evanston, to acclimate uninitiated residents to the idea of taking bags with them when they shop.

Committee members asked Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar to draft an ordinance banning all bags in Evanston. Dick Peach, president of the Evanston Environmental Association, said he attended the committee meeting hoping the original ordinance would die there, because he felt the proposed penalties were draconian. After the purpose of the ordinance appeared to shift from anti-littering to general environmental concern, Mr. Peach said he felt he could support it. Exceptions will have to be clearly spelled out, he said, for example, “What about doggie bags for restaurants?”

An ordinance is likely to be considered at an Administration and Public Works Committee meeting in May.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...