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.