Aldermen narrowly passed a plastic bag ban Monday for 27 Evanston businesses after extensive debate over the practicality and feasibility of the proposal.
The ban, which was sent back to committee earlier this month to allow for further discussion, will require Evanston businesses larger than 10,000 square feet to completely eliminate their plastic bag usage by Aug. 1, 2015. The ordinance will affect stores in Evanston including Whole Foods, Jewel Osco and CVS.
Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said the ordinance would direct people to use bags made of paper that are more harmful to the environment.
“To me, its just a feel good thing,” Wilson said. “Because we want to feel better, we’re pushing off our environmental impact on someone else, so if we truly cared about the environment as a whole, we would be looking at something different.”
Other aldermen agreed the ban would not be an effective way to reduce the city’s environmental impact.
Although the ordinance would not solve the problem completely, Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th) said the ban would be a step in the right direction.
“If plastic bags are gone, no one is going to be worse for the wear,” Burrus said.
Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) requested the original proposal be amended to eliminate the requirement for businesses less than 10,000 square feet to impose the ban. Rainey recommended council assess the success of the ordinance on large businesses before imposing further measures.
“I think everybody ought to be on this program but to eliminate it from this ordinance so we can focus on the big stores and see how it works, see what problems come up, see what ways we can solve things,” Rainey said. “Lets take the smaller people out the mix here so that we can embrace this and work on the big guys.”
After aldermen voted to eliminate the part of the proposal affecting smaller businesses, the ordinance passed in a 5-4 vote.
Prior to the vote, several residents opposed the ban during citizen comment, emphasizing that education initiatives would better serve the community.
Residents further noted plastic bags are not a single use item and several residents reuse and recycle them for different purposes.
Community activist Betty Ester said the ordinance would pose problems for residents with lower incomes. She said if residents need to buy reusable bags from stores, they would be forced to put back items in an effort to save money.
“The same family you talk about that need affordable housing has to make that decision, which item from my grocery list do I put back,” Ester said. “Are we really looking at the impact of the few or of the many. We should be looking at the impact this ordinance will have on the residents.”
Jonathan Perman, former executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce and a representative of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, spoke against the proposed ban. Perman said the ban would have a huge negative impact on businesses and jobs. He said consumer education and recycling would be more effective measures for Evanston to pursue.
“The burdens of an ordinance banning reusable plastic bags would be a detriment to Evanston, its businesses and its residents,” Perman said. “The burdens of the ordinance that it would impose on Evanstonians will not benefit the environment in any significant way.”