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Chicago Bans Plastic Bags, Edgewater Leaders Comment

plasticBagLast month Chicago joined a growing number of other cities that have implemented a plastic shopping bag ban.

The new ordinance will be a multi-phased approach, with the first phase kicking off in August 2015. At that time large retailers – defined as those stores over 10,000 square feet — will not be allowed to offer plastic bags to their customers at check-out. The second phase will go into affect in August of 2016 and will apply to smaller chain stores and franchises.  Non-franchise or independent stores and restaurants are not covered by  the legislation.  Any store that violates the ordinance will face a $300-500 fine for each incident.

Many city officials are concerned over how the ban will affect businesses in their areas.  Paper bags cost about three times the amount as plastic bags. I reached out to the Edgewater Chamber of Commerce to find out if they felt Edgewater businesses would be affected by the ban.

Katrina, Edgewater Chamber Executive Director :

“The Edgewater Chamber of Commerce supports efforts to reduce waste and care for our environment. The plastic bag ban passed by City council exempts restaurants and applies only to chain retailers — those with three or more locations with the same owner — or stores of more than 10,000 square feet. The new ban will not apply to the majority of businesses in Edgewater. However, some of our businesses voluntarily forgo the use of plastic bags such as Broadway Cellars. Tom and Geri, the owners, have made a conscious decision to use paper bags for their to-go containers instead of the less expensive plastic bags.”

I reached out to a few places in our neighborhood to see how the plastic bag ban could affect them, and here’s what some people said:

Lyle, from Care for Real:

“We’re still waiting to hear how the ripple effects of the ban will affect Care for Real.  We’ve made efforts to reduce the distribution of plastic bags.  Clients are encouraged to bring reusable tote bags.  And we have a team of retired immigrant seamstresses who meet and help produce one-of-a-kind tote bags using donated fabric from our Clothing Closet.  It’s a pretty cool program. We do make them available to supporters, too.  The bags can be found at our offices, farmer’s markets and special events and Paula from True Nature. The asking donation/cost of each bag is approximately $25-30 each.  Every bag is made with a ton of love — each one is unique and a ‘work of art’ I like to say.

The program has also reached our neighborhood schools.  A class of students from Sacred Heart chose the program as a community service project.  We matched them with one of the project leaders and they have visited Care for Real quarterly to help make and sew the tote bags.”

Paula, from True Nature Foods:

“True Nature has been using environmentally friendly plastic bags for over four years. Our bags are reusable , recyclable and oxo-biodegradable .   As for falling under the City of Chicago’s new plastic bag ordinance, True Nature Foods  is less than 10,000 sq. ft. and is under the ‘ma and pop veil’ of exemption for now.   We changed our plastic bags as soon as they were purchasable on a smaller scale (less than a semi full).  We have been selling hand made bags from Care for Real that benefit the  Edgewater Food  Pantry to customers who would like to jump on the right road with a cloth shopping bag .  True Nature Foods gleams with delight as the City of Chicago steps into leading its citizens into Environmental awareness.”

Proponents of the new legislation are excited the city is taking a step to protect our environment. An estimate 3.7 million plastic bags are used citywide each day. Approximately 3-5 percent of these bags end up blowing around the city, creating litter, clogging drains and causing other issues. For now most agree that the plastic bag ban is generally good. However, many stores will likely switch to paper bags which also have their drawbacks, mainly that they take more energy to produce and take up more space in landfills. The most ideal solution is, whenever possible, for customers to bring in their own reusable bags. If you are in need of any more of these, head on over to True Nature Foods or Care For Real and check out the bags being sold there.


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