Evanston aldermen Monday will be asked to again take up the tangled question of throw-away plastic shopping bags more than two-and-a-half years after they banished it from their agenda.

The renewed interest in the issue by city staff is prompted by last month’s adoption of restrictions on their use in Chicago.

The Chicago ordinance phases in a ban on disposable plastic bags starting in August 2015.

But the ban only applies to chain stores and franchise operations and won’t hit retailers with stores smaller than 10,000 square feet until August 2016.

It also exempts restaurants, allows the use of plastic bags to wrap meat and produce and permits the use of “commercially compostable plastic bags.”

Evanston Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, first proposed a 25 cent tax on the bags in 2010 and then cut the proposed tax to 5 cents and expanded its scope to also include other disposable bags in 2011.

Then, at the suggestion of Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, aldermen also started to consider banning the bags instead, after store owners objected to the added hassle of collecting a tax.

After Burrus lashed out at opponents of the tax plan at a June 2011 council meeting, the aldermen directed the Environment Board to develop a revised proposal after discussing its impact with local merchants.

But when the revised plan returned to council, the aldermen concluded the board had failed to consult with the businesses and put the bag tax or ban idea on the shelf.

In reaction to the new Chicago ordinance, Evanston’s Environment Board voted unanimously earlier this month to ask for renewed consideration of a ban.

Approaching the concept gingerly now, the staff proposal to aldermen asks for “discussion and consideration” of the ban idea and proposes holding a community meeting on the issue at 7 p.m., Thursday, June 5, at the Ecology Center.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Bags are less a problem than cans and bottles
    Like many I reused all the bags I can and return the rest to the grocery store—including newspaper bags.
    I see far more cans and bottles left on property and gutters than I do plastic bags on streets even downtown.
    Has the city made any effort to ask residents to not put bags in re-cycle bins ? Esp.since they damage equipment. I’ve not seen that. I’ve yet to see one Recycle bin in a park and can’t think of seeing one on city hall lawns. Has [could] the city ask/require more stores to have bins for re-cycled bags ? There maybe more places but Jewel and Whole Foods are the only places I know of—even NU does not have such a bin that I’ve seen. [NU has started a campaign to ban plastic water [hopefully other types] bottles—that would make a lot more difference than a bag ban !—where is the Council on that !]
    What about bags newspapers come in ? Do people want wet newspapers ?
    What about people who walk/bike to the store ? You can carry far more plastic bags than paper bags—and fit many more in a backpack than they cloth bags.
    Can you imagine business people carrying multiple cloth bags in briefcases ? No they will walk home and DRIVE to the store—so much for energy/environment saving.

  2. Banning plastic bags

    Banning plastic bags seems to me to be an acknowledgement that the City can't enforce the anti-lilttering ordinance and wants us residents to pay for other bags to line wastepaper baskets, etc., as well as using the germ-laden "reusable bags" which have to be washed frequently with soap, which adds to the City's sewage treatment costs.

  3. Retailer Plastic Bags
    I realize the proposed BAN is only going to be on those bags retailers put customers purchases into. The City Council says because they are filling landfills. What about all the various siz bages that Hefty,Glad and others sell that people place garbage in? WILL THESE BE BANNED from being used also? will the pick up after your pet ordinance be revoked?

  4. Plastic Bags

    I find it ludicrous to ban plastic grocery bags.  I walk my dog 4 times a day and I have not, in a very long time, seen any plastic bags floating in the air or in trees or on lawns, gutters, etc.  I HAVE seen many dorito bags, other snack bags, meat trays and even a Trader Joe's paper bag cluttering up the sidewalks, lawns, gutters, etc.

    It's nonsense to ban something that is already being taken into consideration by the citizens of Evanston.

    Plus, those plastic bags make great dog poopie pick-ups.  

  5. Re-Usable

    Don't ban them!! I re-use my plastic bags for bathroom garbage. When the kids were little, I used to use them for baby diapers.

  6. Get Educated and Ban the Bags
    Please get educated and Ban the bags! The documentary “Bag It” is a good place to start. Listen to our kids and the many other progressive communities with successful programs that are way ahead of us on this one.

  7. Plastic bag ordinance—“ready, fire, aim”?

    Passing a plastic bag ordinance may be a ‘feel good’ vote for the Council—but is it meaningful ? Is this the Council doing “Ready, Fire, Aim”—taking actions that sound good but are not thought out?

    I see far far more plastic water bottles and cans on the streets—or anywhere else—than plastic bags. The Council would do far more to improve the environment to tax cans and plastic bottles. Not only users but also home owners don’t pick them up on their lawns and gutters—and even the Council does not control pick-up around City Hall.

    Plastic bags serve a purpose—people can carry them to the stores when they walk or bike there, use for garbage [do they want people to use large plastic garbage bags for a week before taking them out or toss a bag meant for a week's garbage everyday, for dog waste pick-up? What about all the soggy newspapers if not delivered in plastic bags ?

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