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There seemed to be little disagreement at a civic forum Thursday night that Evanstonians ought to reduce their use of plastic bags, but several citizens urged the city to provide incentives short of an outright ban.

“We respond well to incentives,” said one lady, “but we don’t like bans.”

“Peer pressure is more effective than legislation,” added another.

Catherine Hurley, the city’s sustainable programs coordinator, moderated the discussion at the Ecology Center, which she said is part of the research into determining how the public feels about efforts to reduce the use of plastic bags that pose a danger to the environment.

In a 30-minute introduction, she noted the number of communities around the United States that have instituted restrictions on the use of plastic bags, most of them in the last five years, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, Seattle, and Portland, Ore.

An intern’s notes on the discussion for further review by city staff.

The executive director of Bring Your Bag Chicago, Jordan Parker, said her group is hopeful that Evanston will pass stronger legislation than Chicago did last month, as inspiration for other Illinois communities.

The Chicago ordinance, passed April 30, bans plastic bags from larger retail establishments and franchises, but not at dine-in or carry-out restaurants.

Evanston’s Climate Action Plan recommends investigating a tax or ban on plastic bags, Hurley said, and “we need your input, feedback, and support to make any program or policy appropriate and relevant for Evanston.”

She noted further that communities that have instituted regulations have seen dramatic reductions in single-use plastic bags, in the 60-90 percent range.

Some in the audience noted that they find plastic bags useful to contain garbage and for pet waste and that while they would welcome efforts to reduce use, they would still like to have the option of obtaining them for specific uses.

Any effort on plastic bags, however, ought to contain incentives for citizens to recycle their bags that are not currently accepted in the city’s recycling program, some suggested.

In the meantime, residents were encouraged to reuse their plastic bags to the greatest extent possible and to minimize accepting single-use bags when they go shopping.

Additional information about the plastic bag issue is available on the city’s website.

Top: Hurley listens to citizens comment on plastic bags at the forum at the Ecology Center.

Earlier story:

Bag ban to get renewed debate

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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3 Comments

  1. Plastic bags for fruits/veg

    Apart from the plastic bags that we put our groceries into during checkout, we should also reduce/reuse the plastic bags that people tear off those bag rollers and put their one or two apples in.  This can be tricky when getting items from the bulk bins at, say, Whole Foods, which requires us to use a fresh new bag for each food item to avoid contamination.

  2. plastic bags

    ~~My name is Abby Goldberg and I have been campaigning against plastic bags for almost 3 years. I have learned a great deal about the problems with plastic bags. I share my knowledge with many in the hopes of changing people’s habits and convincing our legislators that we demand a change.
    My campaign started when I was 12 years old, in 2011, with a fight against an Illinois bill that would have made it impossible for cities and towns to ban plastic bags. Initially, I wanted to get my village of Grayslake to ban the bag. Actually, the first task I completed for this campaign was an e-mail interview with your Sustainability Coordinator. At that point, Evanston was the only community nearby that was considering banning the bag. I was hoping that Evanston would be an example for Grayslake! Sadly the issue in Evanston was shelved. And, even though Governor Quinn vetoed the bill with the encouragement of my petition with over 174,000 signatures, my campaign is still met with resistance from local county boards and village officials.  Despite that, this past year I had the opportunity to testify twice at the Chicago Health and Environmental Committee hearings in favor of a plastic bag ordinance. This spring Chicago voted on an ordinance. Although not the best ordinance, I am excited that Chicago can be a leader with this issue in our state. I am very excited that Evanston may try again to tackle the many problems with plastic bags. I have hopes that the City of Evanston will be a leader and be an example to other communities!
    Board, community and committee meetings show that you know legislation can work. You also know that recycling and other incentives are not working.  Recycling is put on a pedestal whenever the word ban is mentioned. Because you know, if we were all a little more thoughtful and brought our plastic bags back to the store, we wouldn’t have a problem. This is easier to believe than changing our habits. It is easier to believe then having our retailers, legislators and bag makers be responsible for a solution! It is easier to believe than having you and everyone else who cares about this issue come together and actually work out the best and maybe difficult ordinance. We are living in a world where we want to do what is easiest and cheapest with no thought to the consequences. I am here to tell you that sometimes the hardest things are the right things to do! We cannot wait and wish that all retailers do the right thing and stop giving out plastic bags and we cannot wait any longer for bag makers to take responsibility for their product. I am glad you know that the city needs to take action now.
    Although we cannot wait any longer, we must take steps to do it correctly. The good news is that since many communities have adopted plastic bag legislation, the hard work has been done for you. Examples of great legislation that is working is in place in other U.S. cities and other countries. The best proven legislation is either a ban on plastic bags with a fee on paper or simply a fee for all types of carryout bags. This type of legislation guarantees a change in consumer behavior with no financial burden on businesses. A free bag of any kind is not part of the solution. Legislation that addresses all bags is the solution.
    It is my greatest wish that Evanston work with all who have experience, knowledge and commitment to this issue. You need to work together because you all want what is best for the environment and the city. You are all the solution to plastic bag pollution.
    Thank you,
    Abby Goldberg

  3. Priorities

    If some people and elected officials put as much time as they do into brow beating us over the use of plastic bags and trying to "change" behavior into THE serious issues facing our city (schools, crime, rising taxes, poor fiscal condition, shuttered storefront), I think the results would be enlightening. Priorities folks. Not pet projects. For it or against it… just not the right time. And, why do we have to be like Chicago? And the west coast on everything? Deal with our more serious issues first here in Evanston; then you can tackle beating us up later over plastic bags.

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