Counterpoint: Time to get rid of all plastic bags
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The time for plastic bags has come to an end. Over 130 cities and countries have banned plastic bags and Chicago will soon eliminate plastic bags entirely.
Some have argued that in order for the plastic bag ban to be successful, Chicago needs to charge fees to force residents into compliance. This is not the route to take.
The ordinance passed last year was a starting point in eliminating plastic bags entirely. We chose the carrot (offering the option of reusable bags, compostable bags, or plastic bags that could be reused a minimum of 175 times) versus the stick and gave retailers time to educate their consumers. Sadly, some retailers decided on the status quo instead of being leaders in protecting the environment. Heavier plastic is surely not the answer and our fight to eliminate plastic altogether will continue. It is good for the city and good for the environment.
The decision to charge a fee should be left up to individual businesses, not government. Whether it is 5 cents, 10 cents or more, what works for one business may not work for another. Walgreen’s can choose to forgo a fee while Target decides to include one. Let the marketplace decide if fees are necessary for their consumers. The city position is clear: Eliminate plastic entirely and switch to reusable non-plastic bags.
Was the 2014 ordinance perfect? No, we recognize that. However, the fact that several medium-sized businesses are now charging the 10-cent fee is how the marketplace should work. Time and education will also help our residents understand why we are doing this. In a city that uses 3 billion plastic bags a year with less than 10 percent of them going back to recyclers, this is a no-brainer. Our city benefits from less pollution, less cost in our city recycling, not to mention less damage to the environment and wildlife. The message should be clear: no more plastic.
George Cardenas is alderman of the 12th Ward