A loose discussion of possibly banning or otherwise restricting the use of plastic bags by retail establishments was gingerly slipped before Council on May 19. Council members agreed to continue discussing the matter in light of Chicago’s decision to implement a partial ban.
“Our recommendation is to continue to have a public dialogue,” said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. The plan is to take the discussion to businesses, grocers and the community at large over the coming months to determine the best approach to take, he said.
It is clear that no action is imminent, as public discussions are just beginning. City Sustainable Programs Coordinator Catherine Hurley said a public meeting set for 7 p.m. on June 5 at the Evanston Ecology Center would begin the process of gathering community input.
Chicago’s partial ban nudged Evanston toward taking action as well. The time may be right in 2014 while it was not right in 2011, said both Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, and Mark Tendam, 6th Ward. Ald. Grover said Evanston “won’t be the stand-alone we would have been two years ago,” and that the City should follow the “momentum from Chicago.”
“I wasn’t fully behind this a couple of years ago, but I think the time is right,” said Ald. Tendam.
At the suggestion of Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, the discussion will also include a group of “spirited black seniors” who meet every Wednesday. “This issue was on the top of their list,” he said.
Ald. Braithwaite also said any decision the City makes should keep in mind the “impact this could potentially have on a new grocer” contemplating a move into the vacant Dominick’s at Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said that during a recent trip to Ireland she found herself in a store without a bag to carry out her purchases. The store did not provide bags. “The goal is that we all bring own bags,” she said.
That is already happening, said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. “I shop at Aldi’s twice a week,” she said. “We need to give people more credit.” People of all shapes, sizes, ages and color shop at Aldi and bring their own bags, she said. “It reduces the cost of groceries,” she said. “We are always making excuses for people we don’t know very well,” she added.
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, suggested the City give away some reusable bags. Ald. Rainey then volunteered her collection of “Rainey for Alderman” book bags from a campaign several years back.
At call of the wards, Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, who championed the failed effort to tax plastic bags in 2011, said, “I am so delighted the City Council is reconsidering a plastic bag ban. [It is] remarkable, the change in attitude.”
Stung by the 2011 effort, it is clear that the City will carefully approach the matter this time around.