Evanston aldermen Monday night narrowly approved a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags after stripping a provision that would have applied the ban to small stores.

“This is just a feel-good measure,” complained Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward. He said the ban would just encourage people to use paper bags, which he claimed have a far greater environmental impact than plastic.

And Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said the ordinance was misguided because what are called single-use bags actually are reused.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, voted for the ban, even though he said it meant he would have to buy 2,100 dog waste bags a year to clean up after his family pets.

He complained that as it is now he ends up with as many as 20 plastic bags from a single trip to the grocery store.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, also voted for the ban. She said she’d struggled with the issue but ultimately concluded the ban — if coupled with an intensive education program to encourage people to carry their own reusable bags to stores — was the best solution.

As drafted, the ordinance, like one recently adopted in Chicago, required large stores — those with 10,000 or more square feet — to comply with the rules within a year, but gave smaller stores an extra year to comply.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, proposed the amendment to exempt small stores from the ban and that gained seven favorable votes.

But Rainey indicated she wanted to revisit the small store issue a year from now — and that in the end they might not escape the ban.

Although the ordinance carries a $150 fine for stores found in violation, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said code enforcement and health inspectors would initially focus on education efforts to achieve voluntary compliance.

In addition to Fiske and Wilson, Aldermen Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, voted against the ban.

The ordinance does not apply to carry-out bags used by restaurants and also permits the use of plastic bags for produce, meat and bulk grocery items that aren’t otherwise wrapped.

It also exempts stores that aren’t part of a chain.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. One more reason to shop in Wilmette

    I reuse my plastic bags, besides for garbage, when I go for groceries or other items in stores.  However this will mean I and others will have to stock up [keep getting new ones to prepare for the future] when I go to a grocery store.  This will mean going to Jewel in Wilmette instead of in Evanston.  Recyclable bags are to large or carry in a brief case or backpack [I use 4-6 for a grocery trip] and so will be a pain for those picking up groceries on the way home—they will have to go home and DRIVE back—great energy savings there !

    I assume stores will still be able to sell plastic trash bags.  Most are much larger than the plastic bags from grocery stores which may be of optimal size for households of one or two people.  Thus they will have to let garbage sit in their kitchen until the 'trash bags' are full or use more of them–defeating part of the ordinance's purpose.

    I have to wonder where people are seeing all these bags in the enviornment ?  I see very few of them and far more cans/bottles on lawn and gutters.

    I guess the Council will now get the votes from residents who [also] don't think through the decisions the Council makes, but just likes 'feel good' ordinances.

    1. The tree huggers win again!

      The tree huggers win again! What more would we expect from a town that is more concerned about drones!

  2. Look out here comes the Bag Police

    You have got to be kidding! We have gang problems, shootings and murders! Wally and our aldermen want to spent city money to enforce a plastic bag ban? Time to vote these people out! NOW!

  3. Time to vote the bums out!

    This Ban on plastic bags is insane and discriminatory. I wonder if the grocery stores will file a lawsuit.

    this ban will accomplish nothing except embarrassing Evanston. We will simply choose paper and no doubt in year if these one-track minded aldermen are not voted out they will ban paper bags and other so called anti-green things.

    Our taxes keep rising and our local government keeps growing as it piddles on insubstantial feel good issues.

    Vote them out

    1. How do you vote them out?
      How can you vote them out if no viable candidate (or anyone, for that matter) runs against them?I’m getting so fed up with all levels of government that my motto for the next few elections, is very simple: If your in, then you’re out. I will not vote for any candidate who currently is holding office. I would rather go with the devil I don’t know, than the devil I do know.

  4. Sincere thanks to the council

    I am very grateful that there were enough members of the council who stood up to the plastic industry last night, and did the right thing.  I am proud Evanston took this important environmental action.  Hopefully other communities will follow Evanston's lead.

  5. Defeats the purpose

    Sure, taking bags with you to the store is fine, but BUYING garbage bags to clean the litter box defeats the purpose of the "single-use" bag ban.  I certainly used mine more than once.  Meow!

  6. Watch the prices escalate

    What constitutes single use?  What are the alternatives to using the plastic bags to dispose of garbage and trash down the building chute? Paper bags are impractical and and are currently used  to recycle paper. It would also make quite a mess for the custodian to deal with. Don't see any conversation about all the buildings that don't permit garbage disposals. Other alternatives are even more gross. Oh, I get it – the council wants us to purchase commercial bags so they can collect the huge taxes it will generate. Watch the prices of those bags soon as this latest fiasco is implemented.

  7. Time For Wilmette

    Good think I got to the Wilmette Jewel and can keep getting my plastic bags. Like 99% of the people, I don't use them once and used them for carrying lunch to work, taking things places in general, and for our dog's waste outside.

  8. Rodent Family says thanks

    The Rodent Family will be sending a Thank You Card to the Evanston City Council for making it easier for them to obtain food,

  9. Plastic Bags

    I use the plastic bags for my non recyclable waste. They are the perfect size and they're "free". 

    And, unbeknownst to many, there are plastic bags that are composed of materials that can decompose. Plus, paper bags are a big strain on the environment in other ways, namely the destruction of forests for the paper. 

    I find it interesting that the city council is involved in this but refused to pass stringent laws regarding the use of cell phones in vehicles. The city council invited the National Safety Council to make a presentation which was supported by tons of data.

    The city has done nothing, other than put up eensy teensy signs and occasionally ticket a motorist. Big signs and stringent enforcement, possibly with cameras, would net reduce deaths and destruction and net the city a lot of money in the process. 


  10. Killing Trees?

    Are you kdding? Paper is made from trees.  So you want to kill more trees?

  11. Plastic Bags

    Congratulations and thank you to the council for passing an environmentally meaningful ban on single-use plastic bags. It's unclear to what extent our oceans and our landfills will need to be inundated with plastic before people will realize it's not all about their personal convenience….


    1. Stop whining

      I just returned from 3 months in Europe, where plastic bags are either banned or provided at a cost (typically about $0.70 per bag). Was it moderately inconvenient at first? Yes. Then I bought a few reusable bags and got over it. Keep them in your car. Keep them at your desk at work. It's really not that bad.

      Using a plastic bag that provides 20 minutes of marginal convenience and then takes 1,000 years to decompose isn't just unncecessary, it's irresponsible. Thank you to our aldermen for taking a very small step in the right direction.

      1. Bag bans don’t work

        Plastic decomposes in 5 to 10 years. Most importantly they can be recycled.  The bans hope you will use nothing or a reusable bag. Instead it increases the purchase of paper and prepackaged plastic. People can buy their own plastic bags for pennies and save money by not having to wash them and then reusing them for trash, litter etc. Sooo where does the decrease in plastic occur.  It doesn't. This is a feel good measure that does nothing.  Rwanda one of the first places that banned the bag will now put you in prison for up to a year for distributing them. Shows how well that's working.  

        I will do my shopping were there is no ban. 

        1. Plastic Bags are not completely banned so just relax

          Big Box stores will still be allowed to give ppl plastic bags for wrapping chicken, produce, etc. so ppl still have the option to get free plastic bags if they want.  Also – most ppl buy bread, tortillas, etc. which come in plastic bags, so if you need free "pooper scoopers" – these work just as well.  Then again, a really environmentally conscious person buys the special plastic bags to pick up pet waste – so this is just for those who are pinching the pennies.

          It's really not so difficult to bring a few of your own bags to the store – we have such as well-educated & well-off town – I just don't understand why ppl are making such a big stink that they have to bring their own bags – it's pretty easy to do!

          Finally – to save our soc'ty from those ugly plastic bags that get caught in the tops of trees is worth any inconvenience!  I'm very glad this ban has passed!

          1. mij,


            You really stepped in it this time. I hope you are not the one leaving it on my parkway.

            Next task for you:

            How long does it take for alderperson poop to decompose? I heard that is made out of plastic.

          2. Raise your hand

            If you just posted your negative comments about Evanston And work for the plastics industry.

            i believe our aldermen are fairly bad at business acumen, but probably got this one correct.

            learn and adjust people.

          3. Now the campaign to ban paper

            Now the campaign to ban paper bags which do far more harm to the enviorment than the plastic bags.

          4. You must be part of the Grocer Association

            These bans don't work, but the profit on the fee(with no limit) , the savings on not supplying bags, the sales of reusable bags and the sales of prepackaged plastic to replace the free bag are huge.  Its based on myths and a study done in 2009.  Here is a more recent one .  No turtles have been harmed by a plastic bag.  Here is a person who has documented turtles since 96 . The garbage patch can't be found by the guy who started the rumor. Bans go the wrong way.  Rwanda now sends you to prison for up to a year for passing out plastic bags.  Places are now raising the fee because people don't like using a reusable bag.  Majority that do , don't wash them. eww.  

              A real solution is what San Antonio Texas , Madison Wiscon and San Juan de Capistrano is doing.

        2. Plastic decomposed in 5 to 10

          Plastic decomposed in 5 to 10 years? That is big news. Can you provide a citation, please?

      2. 1000 Years!

        Wow! if plastic bags don't decompose for 1000 years, Do the producers of them get carbon offset credits?

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *