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.
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.