Shoppers with plastic bags at Valli Produce on first day of city's plastic bag ban.

Three of Evanston’s major retailers, the two Jewel-Osco grocery stores, and Valli Produce all provided plastic bags for customer purchases on Tuesday, the very first day that was illegal.

The ordinance banning single-use, point-of-purchase plastic bags that took effect Aug. 1. is supposed to block all businesses, regardless of size, from using point-of-purchase plastic bags at the cash register, and as well as non-compostable produce bags in the fruit and vegetable aisle.

It’s all part of Evanston’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan, which, according to the city, “aims to eliminate petroleum-based, single-use plastics …,” to help reduce waste and pollution.

But Evanston Now discovered that the Jewel on Chicago Avenue, the larger Jewel on Howard Street, and Valli Produce at Dodge Avenue and Dempster Street were all still using plastic check-out bags as if the new ordinance did not even exist.

Each store was giving customers the same old option … “paper or plastic,” even though the plastic option no longer exists legally.

The plastic bags at all three stores stated, “This is a REUSABLE BAG designed for at least 125 uses,” and included instructions on how to wash the bags’ insides.

Plastic bag provided to shopper at Chicago Ave. Jewel-Osco on first day of city’s plastic bag ban.

But besides the hard-to-believe concept of using the same plastic bag 125 times, these bags also violate the new Evanston city code.

The ordinance says a reusable bag is “specifically designed and manufactured for multiple re-use and is sewn and made of cloth fiber, or other machine washable fabric.”

Or, to be blunt, you can call a plastic bag a reusable bag, but here, it’s not.

Kara Pratt, Evanston’s Director of Sustainability, told Evanston Now that “The City of Evanston’s definition is intentionally written to exclude that kind of bag.”

Jewel-Osco had it wrong at the front door.

Signs declared “EVANSTON BAG TAX Goes into Efffect August 1, 2023”, and that “all Plastic and Paper bags used to bag Customers’ groceries will be subject to the new Evanston Bag Tax of .10 per bag.”

Sign on Chicago Ave. Jewll-Osco erroneously states that plastic bags taxed because they are allowed.

Except that’s not completely true.

Plastic bags are not supposed to be taxed because they’re not supposed to be there.

“Stores,” said Pratt, “are not allowed to use those bags.”

The paper bag portion of the sign is correct. There is now a 10-cent bag tax which took effect the same day, but only it only applies in large locations (over 10,000 square feet – about the size of a large drugstore).

The city’s hope is that instead of paying 10-cents for a paper bag, customers will choose to save money by bringing their own reusable cloth sacks, keeping more cash and helping the environment.

The Health Department is responsible for enforcing the new ordinance. Pratt told Evanston Now she will inform that department of the grocery stores’ use of plastic.

Punishment is “not less than … $100 per offense”, and “Each day that a violation continues shall constitute a separate and distinct offense” per merchant. Licenses could be suspended or revoked if a store fails to comply after being notified.

That latter draconian penalty seems unlikely, even though the manager of Valli (who only gave his name as “George”) said “we’re running down our [plastic bag] inventory that we’ve already paid for. We’re being as compliant as possible,” and should drop plastic when they run out. He said the city has been informed.

“George” also told Evanston Now it’s actually the customer who should be responsible for bringing a truly reusable bag, even if the store offers plastic.

But that’s not the law.

As for the 10-cent bag tax, the city is not expecting big bucks.

Pratt said only about 30 stores citywide are 10,000 square feet or more, so most places don’t have to worry about the bag tax.

Pratt said the city will take in only about $100,000 from the tax, which, as already stated, is designed more to discourage paper bag usage than raise money.

In fact, while half of the 10-cent fee goes to the city for environmental education and the solid waste fund, impacted stores keep the other nickel.

Of course, if they’re still providing plastic bags, but imposing the tax the stores are collecting a nickel per on something they should not be using.

It’s unclear what will happen to the money that stores may have improperly collected.

Jewel seems to have gotten the message. After being contacted by Evanston Now, the company looked into what was going on.

Corporate spokesperson Mary Frances Trucco emailed us, saying, “After further clarification about the plastic bag ordinance by the City of Evanston, Jewel-Osco is in the process of correcting the issue. We apologize for the oversight.”

And, an early evening check of the Chicago Avenue store revealed that, indeed, the plastic bags were gone, even from self-checkout. Paper bags were there instead.

As for the ultimate big box store, the one which is even known for “Target bags,” … well, they got it right on day one.

Plastic bags were gone. In their place, paper bags with the proper amount of recyclable content (at least 40% post-consumer recyclables) that the city now requires.

Target bags are now paper bags.

But those recycled paper bags are still subject to the .10 tax, which prompted one customer at the Howard Street Target to tell Evanston Now that now, she’ll be “going down to her basement and pulling her cloth bags out of retirement.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


  1. What is “plastic”? It is a term which is used to describe many chemical compounds. How will the City of Evanston determine which materials violate the new law?

    Reusable bags are often made from polypropylene, or from recycled plastic.

  2. What’s next. Paper bags to be used as a poop bag? Nothing is worse when using a paper bag with groceries is when it tears the bottom of the bag. Especially, going to a restaurant and your food goes through the paper bag. Particularly when it’s raining. The homeless will be disappointed once their plastic bags are completely unusable and these paper bags are torn with their personal belongings being dumped everywhere.

        1. The messaging could be a bit clearer. I’ve heard the term “non-resturant buisness” thrown around a bunch.

  3. I have the solution. I will shop in Skokie and Wilmette from now on. Yet again, Evanston does its best to drive business away.

    1. Same. I have a ways to travel from the parking lot to my 4th floor apartment. Paper bags do not work for me a lot of the time.

    2. This is an entirely reasonable ordinance, which has been enacted by many other cities and municipalities, and even at the state level in California, Delaware, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Washington. Business are used to complying with all sorts of more onerous regulations, this one is easy.

      Also, the idea of shopping in another town to have your groceries bagged in single use plastic is laughable.

      1. I do much of my grocery shopping at Trader Joes, which hasn’t offered plastic point of sale bags in a while. Trader Joes has done fine business. Seems to be that shoppers are just fine getting their stuff in paper bags. I do use plastic bags from stores for things like lining garbage cans. I think I’ll find a way to manage. And I think mandating pre-checkout produce bags be compostable is silly, when the vast majority won’t end up in compost. However, I think most people will continue shopping where they’ve been shopping.

        A few commentators here have been comparing progressive policies in Evanston to right wing extremism. I’m not sure what policies Evanston progressives have proposed or passed that could compare to denying citizens bodily autonomy or spreading misinformation about that a virus that lead to thousands of needless deaths.

  4. Thank you for the reminder to shop Wilmette and Skokie. I’ve got a few items to purchase today and I’ll pick them up at the Green Bay road Jewel on the way home from work.

    Please, Evanston, stay Democratic but reject Progressive forms of extremism. They’re not that different from the far right in terms of wanting to tell you what to do and being punitive if you disagree.

    1. Progressive forms of extremism are now how Evanston is defined. Between the city council and the school board, the weight of burdensome ultra-woke-ism-babble and punitive solutions to problems that do not warrant over corrective legislation and policy is the mode. When will the people of Evanston realize that this progressive extremism might as well be another brand of fascism.

      1. My dudes, you are misguided. You’re freaking out about shopping bags. The right-wing extremism you’re comparing this to wants to ban civil rights. Not the same!

        1. If it were only the bags this wouldn’t be an issue. There are almost too many additional examples to mention. The far left & the far right are both misguided. We’ve an infestation of extremism here in Evanston. It happens to be the far left. If it were the far right, I’d be concerned as well. You might think one extreme is better than the other, but it’s not. They’re both tyranny.

  5. “Nieuwsma fiddles while Evanston burns…”

    Nieuwsma for one is intent on showing how Our Progressive Evanston “leads the way” in not only “homeless services”, but also “climate action”. But never y’all mind anyways, his beloved plastic bag bans are “small beer” compared to the probable coming ban on natural gas:

    Eco-year is coming in Evanston [April 23, 2023]

    “Nieuwsma also says Evanston will begin community outreach on the possibility of phasing out natural gas usage in new construction, something he says close to 100 communities are doing nationwide. “If a new building is going in,” Nieuwsma notes, “now would be the time to have a zero carbon footprint.”

    And the latest:

    City’s electrification working group plans to survey residents in August [July 31st 2023]

    “The city’s Building Electrification Working Group plans to survey Evanston residents in August about their familiarity with and concerns about prohibitions against natural gas connections in new construction. The committee, previously the ****Natural Gas Phase Out Working Group****, met for the second time July 31…

    Group member Jonathan Nieuwsma, the Fourth Ward City Council member, said, “Ask a dozen people who have a stake in this [electrification], and chances are we’ll get a dozen different answers.”…

    Nieuwsma, who has been eager for the group to develop its proposal, asked whether they might have something ready to put in front of the City Council in October… The group next meets the evening of Monday, Aug. 14….”

    Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

    1. The cost of heating a house with electricity is considerably higher than natural gas. This flies in the face of Evanston needing more low-income housing. This would be so expensive to maintain.

      1. Exactly, even the US Department of Energry concurs. One wonders if our city officials even bother to do a quick Google of these issues, as there are hundreds of links regarding the below facts:

        From The US Department of Energy:

        “Electric resistance heating is 100% energy efficient in the sense that all the incoming electric energy is converted to heat. However, most electricity is produced from coal, gas, or oil generators that convert only about 30% of the fuel’s energy into electricity. Because of electricity generation and transmission losses, electric heat is often more expensive than heat produced in homes or businesses that use combustion appliances…”

        Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

  6. What about the “reuse” portion of the phrase, “Reduce, reuse, recycle?” Now pet owners will have to BUY plastic bags to clean the litter box and/or pick up poop. Where is the logic in that????

  7. “Ban civil rights” !! Wow.


    My guess is that you are not referring to the right to free speech and expression.

  8. Shortly before the bag ban I asked a couple of staffers at my supermarket how they were preparing for the change. One said she’s going to use whatever bag the customer wants to avoid fights; the other wished she could call in sick for the initial week.
    This morning I pulled out a cloth bag after a transaction in a local (non-chain) store. The clerk directed me to open it up so she could slide the merchandise in without touching the cloth.
    I hope the concerns of local employees are addressed.

  9. Why does every Evanston city code, ordinance, rule, regulation, statute, etc. have to be so punitive all the time. Why not reward and recognize folks for re-using ANY type of bag. Instead of charging $0.10 for a flimsy paper bag that will not hold up well in inclement weather, why not reward folks with a store coupon for $0.10, $0.20 or $0.30 or whatever amount for not using store bags. Win-win in my book!

  10. I am confused. My understanding was that I could continue my practice (which I have been doing for years) of bringing in my old plastic bags (from prior purchases) to be reused. The store does not supply my bags. Are you saying if I do this from now on, either they will not use them to bag or will tax me on them if they do. Sorry if I am being dense!

    1. You can bring your own plastic bag, and will not be charged $.10. Whole Foods pays you $.10 per bag you bring in and use. I don’t know how this is going to work out with self checkout at Jewel, Will people admit that they did not bring their own bags. Chicago already charges $.07 per bag, but they still let the stores use plastic bags.

    2. Here we go again. Evanston leadership demonstrating what “good” people they are by voting in another trendy ban, even if it means making life harder for residents and businesses, and driving customers to shop in other towns. Eventually, less revenue will lead to increases in sales and property taxes to cover the difference because one thing this city never does is cut spending. Unfortunately, this won’t change because Evanstonians ignore city government and voter turnout in local elections is embarrassingly low. Do a survey of 100 Evanston residents and I guarantee more of them will know the details of the latest Trump indictment than will know anything of the bag ban/tax happening in their own community.

  11. I pretty much live equal distance between jewel on Chicago and Green Bay and go to each location approx 50/50. I will just go to Wilmette as well 100% now so no biggee. Unreal.

  12. There are *loads* of internet hits on plastic bag recycling – did *anyone* in city government even bother to do a cursory search on this topic? Single – use grocery bag recycling ranges from 2% to 5%, go here:

    Why most plastic isn’t getting recycled

    A new Greenpeace report points to problems and solutions.

    By Daniel de Visé | Nov. 01, 2022

    “Jan Dell, the outspoken recycling critic and thorn in the side of the plastics industry, wants the American public to face facts…. Dell, a chemical engineer who vice-chaired a federal climate committee in the Obama administration, is behind a new Greenpeace report that puts the national recycling rate for plastic at a heart-sinking 5 percent…

    In 2022, she estimates, the recycling industry has the capacity to process about 21 percent of the plastic used in water and soft drink bottles, 10 percent of milk jugs and juice bottles, less than 5 percent of grocery bags and shrink wrap, less than 2 percent of ice-cream tubs and coffee pods and less than 1 percent of plastic cutlery, coffee lids and DVD cases…

    Another report, published this year by researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, echoed Dell’s findings. Based on 2019 data, the federal study estimated recycling rates at 15 percent for water-bottle plastic, 10 percent for milk-jug plastic, 3 percent for ice-cream tubs, 2 percent for grocery bags – and 5 percent for all plastic…

    In the world of plastics, “only two items are recyclable in America,” Dell said. “And those are No. 1 and No. 2 bottles and jugs,” designated with little numbers inside the triangular recycling symbol. “And everybody knows this in the recycling world.”…

    Supermarket customers who stuff plastic grocery bags into cardboard drop-off boxes may think the bags will magically reincarnate into new grocery bags. In fact, about the best hope is that the plastic will be melted down into asphalt or faux-wood picnic tables…”

    Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident

  13. Easy enough. Don’t shop Evanston. Skokie has plenty of grocery stores and no bag tax or prohibition.

    1. Same with Lincolnwood… I do Instacart shopping on my computer, from Mariano’s. I can request paper bags (that I use for my recyclables) or plastic (which I use to clean the litter box). I will continue to shop there.

  14. I am all for taking plastic out of the environment, but wondering how much it will cost to police this and to administer the fines. Will a $100 fine cost the city $500 to administer?

  15. Both Skokie and Wilmette provide much friendlier safer and cheaper alternatives to the Evanston extremist woke nightmare.

    Besides taxes, the simple pleasure of shopping without ugly vagrancy in front of the business brings me to Wilmette and Skokie a couple of times every week.

    This latest “experiment” as Nieuwsma describes it, is the final straw.

  16. Recently noticed that the small, lightweight, ultra-thin, plastic/polypropylene bags used by various grocery store departments have also been completely removed.

    Most grocery stores I visited lately do not provide and/or will not sell any type of small plastic bags for use to separate unwashed produce, raw poultry, deli-meat, butcher selections, bakery goods, etc.

    Not an expert, but somehow mixing together unwashed produce, raw poultry, deli-meat, butcher selections, bakery goods all together seems really like an unsanitary and unhealthy approach across the board.

    In my opinion, now we have a public health concern, which I plan to raise to the Evanston Health and Human Services Committee, Public Health Department, and Evanston City Council for corrective action. Hopefully, more folks will do the same.

    This whole plastic bag ban definitely needs to be managed much better. As it stands now, it appears to be a short-sighted, poorly implemented ordinance to a pollution problem that is predominantly ill-managed at the disposal level. Evanston can and should do better!

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