Evanston considers ban on disposable bags

April 26, 2011 3:16:44 PM PDT
Officials in north suburban Evanston are considering a proposal to stop the use of disposable bags used by most stores.

Environmentalists say plastic bags have an average life span of 12 minutes while the bags litter the streets and clog the sewers. Most wind up in landfills that are running out of space.

Evanston would be the first in Illinois to outlaw disposable shopping bags.

Before banning the bags altogether, Alderman Coleen Burrus of Evanston is proposing a 5-cent tax on plastic and paper bags. Burrus' ordinance would include carry-out bags, not bags used for produce, newspapers, yard waste or dry cleaning.

"The ordinance proposal is, I consider, my opening salvo. It's a way to get the discussion really started. We've been talking about it for several years but no one wanted to take the first step," Ald. Burrus told ABC7.

She says the alternative to disposable plastic or paper bags is reusable shopping bags.

Many shoppers like the idea of being green but believe taxing bags is too extreme.

"I don't think they should charge for them. Next thing they will put taxes on water bottles and everything else," said shopper Monica Croft.

"I prefer the plastic people invented a bag that was biodegradable. I would rather pay for that than be forced to buy a shopping bag," said Sheron Quigley, also a shopper.

"I have quite a few in the trunk, and I forget to take them every time," said shopper John Goings.

The environmental group Citizens' Greener Evanston fully supports banning the bags for good, but board member Dick Peach says education is a better approach for now than a 5-cent tax.

"I think we should have handouts explaining the dangers of the plastic bag and the billions of barrels of oil it takes to create them and how there are alternatives to doing this," said Peach.

For Alderman Burrus, it's all about getting the discussion started.

"I believe it's a behavioral change, similar to when seat belt laws went into effect," said Burrus.

If a paper and plastic ban passes in Evanston, Alderman Burrus says she is hoping to get a corporate sponsor give away reusable bags to Evanston residents.

Evanston officials plan to hold a meeting with citizens, small business owners, and major grocery store chains before taking any action on the proposed ordinances.