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Chicago Bans Plastic Bags: Big Stores Have Until 2015 to Make the Change

By Ted Cox | April 30, 2014 12:58pm
 A plastic bag monster was used to lobby for a ban at a City Council hearing last year.
A plastic bag monster was used to lobby for a ban at a City Council hearing last year.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — Dog owners, start hoarding those Target bags.

The City Council formally approved a partial ban on plastic shopping bags Wednesday to be phased in over two years. The vote was 36-10, as some aldermen were worried about how it would affect customers and supermarkets.

The new city ordinance will take effect on large supermarkets and chain stores of more than 10,000 square feet in August 2015. Smaller chain stores and franchises like 7-Eleven outlets will follow suit with the ban a year later. Small, independent stores will be exempt, in an attempt to minimize the impact on their business.

Jen Sabella joins DNAinfo Radio to tell you how quickly the plastic bag ban goes into effect:

Ald. George Cardenas (12th), chairman of the Committee on Health and Environmental Protection, which approved the ban, said it reflected "an environmental agenda that is pro-business."

Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), lead sponsor of the ordinance, said, "A yes vote is for the environment, it's for the economy."

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) said it was a global warming issue. "There's too high of a cost not to do something," he added.

"Eventually the public picks it up and says, 'Thank you for doing this,'" said Ald. Danny Solis (25th).

Yet 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston said the ban would "widen and deepen the gap between the haves and the have-nots" and would discourage supermarkets from expanding into South Shore, where she said they already use any excuse not to place stores there.

"The ban will cost jobs," added Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th), at the very least manufacturing jobs at city plastic bag firms.

"This is an industry problem. This is a recycling problem," said Ald. Willie Cochran (20th), adding that it should be addressed on that level.

Yet the ban passed, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel applauded the move, saying the status quo "doesn't reflect our values" and "you can't be the City in a Garden and have a set of policies that hurts the environment."

He promised to work on food deserts and said it wasn't an either-or issue.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has fought the ban, pointing out that paper bags cost more than plastic and insisting those costs will be passed on to consumers. The American Progressive Bag Alliance said the move "will damage Chicago's business-friendly reputation."

Moreno has cited statistics showing that the average Chicagoan uses 500 plastic bags a year, 3.7 million a day overall in the city.