Evanston city staff will seek Economic Development Committee approval Wednesday night of a new tax on all point-of-sale bags.

The new 10-cent per bag tax would apply to plastic bags of any thickness, paper and compostable bags.

Since 2014 the city has banned the use of non-reusable point-of-sale plastic bags at large retail stores.

But, in a memo to the committee, Sustainability Coordinator Cara Pratt says the ban still “allows for the free distribution of too many disposable bags,” both the common thin ones and thicker plastic bags generally considered reusable.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) is backing the new bag tax, but wants to exempt people paying with food stamps from the charge.

The city’s Environment Board wants to see some of the revenue a bag tax would generate used to “visibly advance” the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan goals.

The memo says a 2018 study of a 7-cent bag tax in Chicago showed that it reduced the number of bags shoppers used.

Under the Chicago ordinance stores can absorb the cost of the tax themselves, or charge the customer $0.07 per bag and retain $0.02 of the fee themselves

The use of reusable bags, an option to avoid the bag tax, was banned statewide early in the pandemic amid fears it could contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

Update: Wednesday night’s EDC meeting was canceled for lack of a quorum. The meeting now has been rescheduled for Tuesday, May 31, at 6 p.m. in Room 2404 at the Civic Center.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. A bag tax doesn’t bother me all that much. The current system is terrible; I still throw almost every plastic bag away but now they’re made of three times more plastic than they used to be.

  2. With the current rise in inflation, adding another tax on consumers supporting our business located in Evanston is unconscionable.

  3. Local supermarkets are allowing people to use their own reusable bags again, I even brought my own to the dollar store the other day where I had to pack it myself at checkout because the clerk wouldn’t touch it.

    1. Money grabbing move by the city. Don’t understand why recyclable paper bags need to be taxed.

  4. Now that it’s again possible to bring our own bags to stores, we can get (back) into the habit but think it will be adopted without resentment if the city takes the carrot, and not what I call penalty, approach.
    For example:
    *The city could set up an app or a punch card. Each time a shopper brings a bag the app or card registers one point. Accumulate 100 points and the consumer gets a $ (I’d say $5) gift card that can either be used or donated to the city.
    *The city could host a reusable bag giveaway, with contributions from various organizations and stores.
    *Encourage stores to ask shoppers if they need a bag for their purchases. Many do now and the question makes consumers think twice.

  5. This is another utterly brainless idea by Alderman Reid. The city wants to tax anything it can and blame it on its citizens. The tax would further be detrimental to our local businesses and cause more incentives for shoppers to shop outside our city. Somehow to Reid, people on government assistance don’t get taxed, but everyone else does? Every idea Reid has lacks reasoning and does not support our community.

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