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City to repeal plastic bag ban, delays 7-cent bag tax to Feb. 1

Sun-Times file photo

The city is repealing its ban on plastic bags as of Jan. 1, 2017, and pushing back the implementation of a new checkout bag tax by one month, to Feb. 1, 2017.

No provisions of the plastic bag ban will be held over, according to Molly Poppe, a spokeswoman for the Office of Budget Management.

In a letter to businesses sent last week, the city said the delay in the new 7-cent-per-bag checkout tax is aimed at giving businesses more time to integrate the tax into their point of sales systems.

Ald. Proco Joe Moreno (1st) was one of the chief sponsors of the plastic bag ban and decried its repeal as “bad policy.”

“The steps we took reduced consumption,” Moreno said. “Anecdotally, you can see it in our streets and trees. It was a good first step we took.”

Moreno added that “The challenge is to get people to change their behavior” and he would push for an outright ban on plastic bags in the city.

The new checkout tax will apply to both paper and plastic bags, with retailers charging $0.07 per bag provided to customers who don’t bring their own bags to haul their goods.

Five cents would go to the city with the business keeping the other two.

Certain bags — such as those provided by pharmacists to patients to carry prescription drugs — will be exempt from the tax, according to the city’s Department of Finance.

The repeal of the bag ban was approved on Nov. 16 when the City Council unanimously approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s $8.2 billion budget.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushed to end the ban, arguing that it had become a farce, as retailers dodged it by simply offering thicker plastic bags that could be considered “reusable.”