Bag ban starts Aug. 1, but plastic won’t get sacked

SHARE Bag ban starts Aug. 1, but plastic won’t get sacked

The city’s plastic bag ban starts Aug. 1 — sort of.

In fact, plastic bags aren’t going away entirely, they’ll just look a little different.

Target and Jewel-Osco, among others, plan to introduce a “reusable” plastic bag that retailers say meets the requirements of the city’s new ordinance.

In May 2014, the Chicago City Council imposed a partial ban on plastic bags, which get stuck in trees, jam landfills and waterways and are blamed for the death of birds and marine animals.

Mom-and-pop retailers and restaurants aren’t included, as well as “non-franchise” independent stores measuring less than 10,000 square feet. Compliance deadlines are tied to the size of the store: For those bigger than 10,000 square feet, it’s Aug. 1; stores under that size have one more year.

Under the ordinance, affected retailers “shall provide reusable bags, recyclable paper bags or any combination thereof.”

So that’s why Jewel-Osco plans to offer customers, in addition to paper bags, a thicker plastic bag that the retailer says can hold up to 22 pounds and be reused 125 times.

But doesn’t that defeat the intent of the ordinance, especially if customers don’t reuse the bags?

“We are following the ordinance, obviously, and we are following exactly what the city would like us to do,” Jewel-Osco spokeswoman Mary Frances Bragiel said. “We are recommending customers reuse the plastic bags.”

Some retailers plan to offer credits or discounts for customers who reuse bags.

Mariano’s, though, plans to replace all plastic bags with paper ones, and continue to offer, for purchase, a range of reusable bags, a spokesperson said.

Bring Your Bag Chicago, an environmental advocacy group, had opposed the ordinance — saying it doesn’t go far enough. Stores giving away so-called reusable plastic bags are “exploiting” a loophole in the law, said Jordan Parker, the organization’s spokeswoman.

“Whenever a consumer is allowed to take a free bag, they think, ‘It’s free. I don’t have to bring it back.’ . . . And free bags don’t change consumer behavior,” Parker said.

Parker said her organization is gearing up to lobby all 50 city aldermen to amend the ordinance so that stores would have to charge a fee — at least 10 cents — per bag, whether paper or plastic.

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