Evanston’s Economic Development Committee is scheduled Wednesday evening to consider a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags and a tax on all other bags.

The ban on the thin plastic bags, proposed by Ald. Devon Reid (8th), would take effect in April 2024. The 15-cent tax on all bags would be imposed immediately.

The tax would exempt only bags provided by a pharmacist to hold a prescription drug, newspaper bags and bags used to package loose produce items.

A staff memo says the proposal has been endorsed by the city’s Environment Board.

Since 2014 the city has banned the use of disposable plastic bags by large chain stores. The new ordinance would apply to all retailers, apparently including restaurants, although the existing bag ordinance exempts restaurants.

The Economic Development Committee on May 31 voiced support for a tax on all sorts of point-of-sale bags. The measure under consideration then did not include the expanded ban on single-use plastic bags.

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.”

At the May 31 EDC meeting, Cara Pratt, the city’s sustainability and resilience coordinator, said she planned to “solicit feedback from community stakeholders” about the proposed revision to the city’s existing bag ordinance.

The packet for Wednesday night’s EDC meeting contains no report on what that feedback may have been, if it was collected.

The new proposed ordinance would exempt recipients of SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps, from having to pay the tax, because federal regulations bar the use of those benefits to pay any fees or taxes, other than sales tax on food items.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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