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A better way to keep plastic out of the Lake Michigan water we drink

I urge support for Ald. Scott Waguespack’s Plastic-Free Water Ordinance.

“Every year, almost 22 million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes,” writes a Sun-Times reader, “and plastics break down into smaller pieces that are found in drinking water.”
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

When I drink the tap water in my college apartment, I worry about whether there is plastic in it. And I have reason to worry.

Every year, almost 22 million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes, more than half in Lake Michigan, and studies have shown that plastics break down into smaller pieces that are found in drinking water. Yet, instead of creating tangible and meaningful solutions to our plastic problem, an ordinance introduced by Ald. George Cardenas and Ald. Samantha Nugent would merely ban the automatic distribution of “single-use” plastic foodware in restaurants. This isn’t enough.

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The ordinance’s sole requirement is that restaurant customers be provided with single-use foodware upon request. And even that requirement includes seven exceptions. Drive-through restaurants, for instance, are exempt from the ordinance.

A more comprehensive approach to reducing the amount of plastic in our water, which I urge the City Council to support, is Ald. Scott Waguespack’s proposed Plastic-Free Water Ordinance. It would ban polystyrene foam, cups and takeout containers from restaurants, allow single-use items by customer request only, and ensure that any disposable items are recyclable or compostable.

No item that we use for just a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our lakes, our water supply and our bodies. We must recognize the severity of plastic pollution in Chicago and work together toward cleaner and plastic-free water.

Judy Zhang, Hyde Park

Taxpayers pay for county mistakes

A recent Sun-Times report (“Senior Freeze tax program riddled with errors and lax oversight”) highlights yet another example of how Cook County taxpayers suffer the consequences of incompetent government. They are literally forced to pay for the county’s mistakes.

The county’s Senior Citizens Assessment Freeze Homestead Exemption program has a worthwhile purpose; it is intended to help people who are over 65 and have lower incomes. But when the program fails to identify who is eligible and who is not, it not only fails to function properly; it also punishes all other hard-working property tax payers. They are forced to pick up the extra tax burden.

The county’s emphasis should be on getting every property assessment right in the first place. There is no reason Cook County officials can’t update safeguard mechanisms to properly monitor eligibility for the program, using proof of age and income.

For too long, Cook County’s tax assessment system has been flawed and corrupt, failing to serve the best interests of the public.

Froy Jimenez, Bridgeport