Evanston’s Environment Board discussed at their Thursday, July 15, meeting soliciting community feedback on an updated store bag ordinance.

The City is considering changing its plastic bag rule. Credit: Pixabay stock image

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.

CARP dashboard

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.

Alex Harrison reports on local government, public safety, developments, town-gown relations and more for the RoundTable. He graduated from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in June...

11 replies on “City to seek feedback on changing plastic bag rules”

  1. No one had “extremely negative reactions”? Okay, you can put me down then. Between parking meters (not to mention requiring that we use an app whether we want to or not) and this proposal, we are being nickel-and-dimed to death. Routine increases in property taxes aren’t enough, so let’s add ten cents for every bag. City Council is unwilling to cut anything much because someone, somewhere will be unhappy; guess what? Fiscal responsibility means making tough choices and sometimes things have to be cut. Sometimes “alternative” sources of revenue aren’t enough. Sometimes cuts must be made; big cuts. People will be hurt. It cannot be helped. Or we could just keep kicking the can down the road

  2. Did a bit of sleuthings…China pollutes our oceans to the tune 8.8 million metric tonnes of plastic waste…Indonesia 3.2 million onnes…Phillipines 1.9 million metric tonnes…USA 300,000 metric tonnes or, .3 million metric tonnes. https://www.condorferries.co.uk/marine-ocean-pollution-statistics-facts
    Rather than make it more difficult for retail merchants to survive (remember Barnes and Noble? They didn’t leave because of plastic bags, but it was a death of a 1,000 cuts) in Evanston (and collect the sales tax revenue the city so desperately needs) or, encourage us to shop outside of Evanston because of the hassle factor, Evanston should focus on making the city livable for all. If you want to bring your own bag, great. If you forgot, we won’t punish you with a petty bag fee.
    Being environmentally friendly starts with picking up the garbage you see in the street (or the beach) and putting it in recycling or the garbage can. It doesn’t have to be a petty ten cent annoyance that only drives people to shop outside of our community. Being environmentally friendly means being aware of where the actual plastic pollution is coming from.

  3. What is wrong with the Economic Development Committee with the city? Strong opinions re changing the plastic bag ordinance were reportedly expressed, but one on one people did NOT have strong views? This makes no sense.
    It was a long fight to drag Evanston along with other, more progressive, cities around the country that had banned single use plastic bags from stores entirely well before Evanston’s limited ban in 2014 passed the City Council.
    While the plastics industry, then and now, insists that paper bags are equally bad for the environment, this has been disproven over and over. Many stores that use paper bags use recycled ones, which improves the environmental impact, and paper bags deteriorate in the landfill, which plastic bags do not.
    Paper bags do not end up in rivers and oceans, choking and killing sea creatures, which plastic bags do, or hanging in trees or gutters. Adding a few extra dollars to the city’s coffers at the expense of the environment is not worth it, no matter what the plastics industry tries to convince folks of re some kind of equivalence between paper bags vs plastic and the environment. It’s no contest, and it will be a shameful move to go backwards on this!!!!

  4. I’m slightly confused. The article says there would be a charge on reusable bags. Does that include the ones a customer brings into the store? I have many cloth bags that I use. Would I be charged for each one? I use the self-check out lanes. How would a customer be charged for bags there? I am for keeping the plastic bag ban as it is.

    1. Dear Rachel, I think these are all still considerations and nothing has yet to be decided. For that to happen, the City Council must vote. Susy Schultz, editor

      1. Dear Cara, Thank you for taking the time to answer a comment. We hope we are creating a safe online space for Evanston to talk, question and discuss. So from the response here it is clear, people have questions and concerns even though this proposal is still just a proposal. I think you are wise to look in this space every once in awhile as the work you are doing on the climate plan is important but can be confusing. Thank you, Susy Schultz, Editor

  5. I strongly oppose the DISPENSING of plastic bags to carry goods by ANY store at ANY price. Buy or BEST bring your own. We MUST get used to this and drop the idea we are somehow owed a bag to carry away our merchandise.

    We now know the cost of this past habit to the environment.

    1. Back in the day, grocery stores bagged our purchases in paper bags. Not that durable cloth tote bags hadn’t already been invented long before, but stores bagged our groceries as a convenience to us. People who are well-prepared when they shop can bring enough cloth tote bags for their purchases. But sometimes people aren’t prepared, and it’s not always their fault. Stores’ willingness to provide bags for customers to carry out their purchases stems from their interest in making it practical for the customers to take their purchases with them and not lose any if they weren’t fully prepared.

    1. Dear Elizabeth, This is being driven by the Economic Development Committee. As of yet, they have not set dates for the town halls they want. While we promise to keep you informed.

      I also can refer you to the committee page on the city’s website, which reads: Meetings of the Economic Development Committee are held on the fourth Wednesday of every month at 7:30 p.m. Items submitted for consideration by the Economic Development Committee should be filed with the Economic Development Division Staff no later than two weeks prior to the meeting date. (here’s the link: https://www.cityofevanston.org/government/departments/community-development/economic-development/about-us/economic-development-committee)

      Here is the list of members and staffers who work on the committee: https://www.cityofevanston.org/government/departments/community-development/economic-development/about-us/economic-development-committee

      I hope that helps. Susy Schultz, Editor, Evanston RoundTable

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