Evanston’s Environment Board discussed at their Thursday, July 15, meeting soliciting community feedback on an updated store bag ordinance.
The current ordinance, approved in 2014, prohibits stores 10,000 square feet or larger from distributing disposable plastic bags to customers. But at last month’s Economic Development Committee meeting, committee members and city staff expressed support for lifting the current ban and replacing it with a 10-cent tax on all point-of-sale bags, including paper and reusable ones.
A staff presentation to the board’s zero waste subcommittee explained that because it is difficult to weigh the environmental impacts of different types of bags, a blanket policy is more effective than a targeted one. It also said that exemptions would be provided in certain instances, such as paper pharmacy bags and when the customer pays using SNAP benefits.
At Thursday’s meeting, Cara Pratt, the city’s Sustainability and Resilience Coordinator, said the city will likely hold two town halls in the near future on a draft ordinance, one for the general public and one specifically for members of Evanston’s business districts. She said staff are also seeking feedback from City Council members on the draft, to limited success so far.
“There were a lot of strong opinions in the Economic Development Committee meeting several weeks ago, but then when we tried to get them sort of one-on-one, we’re not hearing a lot of feedback,” Pratt said. “Which we have taken to mean that our proposal is OK, or maybe needs some fine-tune tweaks. But no one has had extremely negative reactions to it.”
Pratt said that since the City Council’s goal is to have a new ordinance for consideration by September, a completed draft and community feedback gathered from the town halls will be available for the Environment Board to discuss in its August meeting.
The board also discussed creating an online dashboard for the Climate Action and Resilience Plan (CARP) to help keep the city accountable to the plan’s timeline.
Board member Jerri Garl said although the dashboard will likely need to wait for funding in the city’s 2023 budget, waiting will give the board time to work out the finer details of tracking and communicating CARP’s progress for the public.
“How can we update what’s currently in the CARP so that we’re ready to hit the ground running?” Garl asked. “Because we want to display this to the public in a really transparent and easy to understand way, but also so we can gather data, have it be defensible and valid and really look at milestones toward meeting our goals over time.”
Pratt told the board the city received a pricing estimate for building the dashboard from FigBytes, a sustainability data analysis firm, earlier in the day.