Members of Evanston’s Economic Development Committee voiced support Tuesday night for taxing the use of all sorts of point-of-sale bags.

And some committee members said they’d support increasing the staff-proposed 10-cent-per-bag tax to 20 or 25 cents.

Typical single-use plastic bags could cost a small retailer just under 4-cents per bag, so even a 10-cent tax would be a 250% tax on the wholesale price of the bag.

A recent report by Columbia University’s Climate School says it’s extremely difficult to determine which type of shopping bag — plastic, paper or reusable cotton tote — is actually most climate-friendly.

The city plan would punish consumers for any use of store-provided bags, thereby favoring shoppers who bring their own cotton totes — though the Columbia report says a cotton bag “needs to be used 7,100 times to equal the environmental profile of a plastic bag.”

Cara Pratt, the city’s sustainability and resilience coordinator, says that, with the EDC’s views in hand, she next plans to “solicit feedback from community stakeholders” about the proposed revision to the city’s existing bag ordinance.

That law bans the distribution of non-reusable plastic bags — but only by large retail stores like supermarkets.

The new proposal is intended to impact all retail merchants in the city.

Related story: City seeks to tax all kinds of shopping bags (5/25/22)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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8 Comments

  1. Taxing plastic shopping bags! Are you kidding? Evanston is already pushing its residents to shop in other communities. You can’t go anywhere in the city without paying for parking. You have to pay a “wheel tax” to park in front of your own house. Soon we will have to pay a sidewalk tax to walk on the sidewalks. Currently the store absorbs the cost of the bag as part of doing business and a necessary way of carrying groceries. A bag tax is another way to push consumers to shop in other communities and make stores less competitive.

  2. We re-use every single one of the “single use” bags which the city wants to punish us for – they are used when cleaning our cats’ litterboxes.
    What this will do is force us to purchase those bags separately. Pretty damn stupid if you ask me…

    BTW – I agree with EUGENE HALLONGREN. For whatever stupid reasons they have, this city seems to be doing everything possible to drive local businesses under.

  3. I think a 20- to 25-cent bag tax could have negative consequences for small businesses.
    A shopper, faced with an additional fee on his bill, is more likely to lash out at the clerk who rang up the charges, similar to the problems airplane crews are dealing with.
    Bags are advertisements. I see a woman carrying an Accents Plus bag, I’m cued to stop in. No bag, no reminder.
    Worst possibility, consumers become so annoyed with Evanston’s bag regulations they switch to online shopping as much as possible.

  4. The previous law was pointless. It only resulted in stores using different plastic bags. This one might help. I’d love it if baggers at grocery stores were less inclined to double bag and then put three items in each set of two bags.

    In reading the report the author references, the data used for determining the environmental cost of a plastic bag only considers the pre-use environmental cost, not the tendency of plastic bags to end up in the environment after use and all the havoc that causes. I’ve never seen a tote bag up in a tree or read about one found in the stomach of a dead sea creature. Even if they end up in the landfill there’s a cost there that isn’t being considered in the report.

    It’s also worth noting that the 2014 study used to get life cycle info for plastic bags in Columbia’s report came directly from the plastic bag industry so the likelihood that it accurately represents the full life cycle cost is nil.

    The bottom line is that single use plastics should be used less and taxation is one of the best tools to help influence behavior. You should not be using something that lasts essentially forever to clean the poop out of your litter box one time.

    People always complain when they have to change their behavior but sometimes it’s for the greater good.

  5. Alderman Reid wants to exempt food stamp recipients from the tax. If the goal is to incentivize consumers to use fewer bags, the why should anyone be exempt?

    Otherwise, this looks like just another revenue-raiser for the City of Evanston.

    1. I’m not one to defend Alderman Reid generally but sometimes you make exemptions for those that truly need an exemption.

  6. If you are implementing a bag tax why should anyone be exempt?! If you live here, if you shop here you should pay ‘your fair share’ as the man in the WH says all the time. I am not on food stamps. I do not support a bag tax of any kind. What a stupid idea when people are faced with record inflation and increased federal taxes. The City could be thinking of ways to help her citizens but the current officials seem to be thinking of nothing but how to help a select few. Well, the select few may choose to remember all this at election time in the meantime businesses will suffer from decreased income. Just sayin’…

  7. Dear Ms Wynne, ( and other Council members)

    I am a small business owner in your ward.
    I moved to Evanston in 1991 and started our business in 1998.
    We have moved and expanded and been a retail and service provider in your ward since 2004.
    You, yourself, have in the past shopped in my store as do other Council members.
    You have seen what we do and you can see how long we have maintained these practices.
    From Day 1, we have only provided paper bags that we hand-stamp with soy ink for our customers.
    We have never used plastic bags.
    We are the people who demanded that our landlord provide a recycling bin for our building. Our building, which includes apartments, was without more than a dumpster until we moved here from down the block in 2010.
    We regularly accept customers returning our shopping bags for reuse if the bags are in good condition.
    We have recycling boxes for pet toys and and pet food bags displayed in our store.
    We collect pet food donations so that unused food goes to a shelter instead of the landfill.
    We collect packing materials that we either use for own shipping or take it to the UPS store for it to be used by them.
    We try to work with distributors and manufacturers that use more sustainable packing materials, more sustainable farming methods, and source locally instead of buying cheaper items made in China, which come with more extraneous packaging and create a larger carbon footprint.
    Our other business, The Alchemist’s Wife, that shares the location also has minimal packaging and recycles our glass and PET plastic containers or refills the containers for our customer.
    The Alchemist’s Wife follows the same sourcing guidelines. Our shipping boxes are recyclable and can be used as a gift box, so we reduce the sheer amount of packaging.
    These are things we do to be a sustainable part of our community.
    We are surrounded by apartment and condo buildings that are surrounded by Amazon trucks delivering packages all day.
    It ties up traffic, it wastes fuel, it pollutes our air. Amazon trucks are not electric or using alternative energies like USPS or UPS.
    It makes it impossible for people to use available parking spaces, which greatly impacts my ability to generate sale taxes.
    According to Oceana.org, Amazon generates 599 million pounds of plastic packaging alone, this does not include the 67,000 tons of cardboard waste they generate that goes straight into the landfills because of improper handling.
    Amazon does not pay the same sales tax that I pay. Amazon should be carrying the weight of the cost of doing business here, the costs to our city.
    Our new neighbor, Wild Fork has two huge dumpsters full of cardboard that is not being recycled and they use plastic bags.
    Small businesses are leaving Evanston faster than new ones are arriving. There is a reason for this. Storefronts are sitting empty or not generating sales tax.
    I realize that Evanston needs more tax dollars but I feel that the method should be to reduce the waste or tax the real culprits here.
    The culprit is big stores using plastic, restaurant waste, commercial landlords not providing recycling bins. It’s Amazon filling up the trash in all the new high rise buildings. It’s not a small business using paper bags.
    It’s grossly unfair to tax my customer instead of the customers eating take out or delivery or receiving the Amazon deliveries and grossly unfair to make small businesses the “bad guy” in the eyes of the customer.
    If customers have to pay more taxes they will shop elsewhere. And who wins in this scenario? Not the city because they receive less or no sales tax, certainly not the small businesses.
    I feel like support of the bag tax is a way to virtue signal support for the environment without actually doing the work of making Evanston a more sustainable city and protecting our environment.
    My suggestion would be instead of penalizing customers who forget to bring their own bags, perhaps the city offer a certification for the businesses that follow the sustainability criteria, if the business passes, the businesses don’t have to pay the tax. If the businesses don’t comply, the business pays the tax.
    It takes the onus off the customer who may or may not be from Evanston and may or may not know the rules. I want more people to visit Evanston and shop & dine here, maybe move here.

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