CITY HALL — Chicago aldermen debated a ban on plastic grocery bags Tuesday, with some saying a ban is needed for the environment and others warning small businesses could suffer.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), lead sponsor of the proposed ban, said he was "very" confident of passage in a Health Committee vote now set for April 15.
"But I still have to work it," he added.
"This issue affects every single resident of the city," said Ald. George Cardenas (12th), chairman of the Health Committee, which held what he called a "subject-matter hearing" on the issue Tuesday.
Cardenas promised an April 15 vote on the matter, but urged Moreno to "strengthen the legislation" in the meantime.
Moreno said he was considering extending the compliance period upon passage from 60 days to several months.
That probably won't be enough to placate some opponents. Ald. Matthew O'Shea (19th) said he was concerned about a bag ban placing an "undue burden" on merchants in his Southwest Side ward, which could easily lose customers to nearby suburbs like Evergreen Park.
"Enough is enough," O'Shea said. "We need to leave our small businesses alone."
"It will certainly drive up costs for retailers that inevitably will be passed on to customers," said Tanya Triche, spokeswoman for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
According to Triche, a plastic bag costs 3 cents, a paper bag 10 cents.
Triche pointed to Chicago's competitive market for supermarkets and the recent closing of Dominick's stores, a tactic that rankled some aldermen.
"I think you should be ashamed of yourself," Moreno said, adding that plastic bags had nothing to do with the Dominick's closings.
"Corporate America destroyed Dominick's," added Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd).
According to Moreno, Chicagoans use 3 billion plastic grocery bags a year, or 500 per consumer. He said efforts to promote recycling of the bags had failed, with only 1.5 percent of them recycled statewide. He said the bags made for unsightly trash and a health risk.
"I think we need some kind of hammer, because the caring approach is not working," said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd).
Moreno said he expected the measure to pass, even though Mayor Rahm Emanuel "hasn't taken a solid position on it one way or another."