Young Grayslake activist takes her fight against plastic bags to Gov. Quinn's office

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  • Photo: Anthony Soave

    Grayslake resident Abby Goldberg speaks July 3 about her petition drive in front of the Chicago office of Governor Quinn.

  • Photo: Anthony Soave

    Grayslake resident Abby Goldberg speaks July 3 about her petition drive in front of the Chicago office of Governor Quinn.

  • Photo: Anthony Soave

    A sign on the podium makes clear the intention of 12-year-old activist Abby Goldberg from Grayslake.

  • Photo: Anthony Soave

    Grayslake resident Abby Goldberg visited the Chicago office of Governor Quinn with her mother, Tracy Goldberg.

  • Photo: Anthony Soave

    Grayslake resident Abby Goldberg met with Gov. Pat Quinn July 3 at his Chicago office so she could present him with a petition concerning plastic bags. The petition was signed by more than 150,000 people.

  • Photo: Anthony Soave

    Grayslake resident Abby Goldberg presented Gov. Pat Quinn with a petition concerning plastic bags. The petition was signed by more than 150,000 people.

Photo: Anthony Soave

Grayslake resident Abby Goldberg speaks July 3 about her petition drive in front of the Chicago office of Governor Quinn.


When we first checked in with Abby Goldberg—a 12-year-old girl from suburban Grayslake who started an online petition three weeks ago against a bill that would make it illegal for Illinois municipalities to ban the use of plastic bags—her fight still seemed like a herculean effort. But after the young, soft-spoken activist stepped up to the microphone on the steps of James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago on Tuesday, her goal now appears within reach.

With Illinois politicians and environmental activists at her back, Goldberg held a press conference before marching on Gov. Pat Quinn’s office to deliver 154,000 signatures of her petition to the governor. “Never in my wildest dreams did I believe I would get 154,000 signatures,” she said. 

It’s not the greenest way to deliver a message, but the five bags stuffed with signatures certainly made a visual impact. Each bag had a slash through the words SB3442—the name of the so-called “Plastic Bag and Film Recycling Act” that Goldberg and thousands of others (as of this writing, more than 156,000 others) want Gov. Pat Quinn to veto. 

The bill exempts Illinois municipalities with populations over 2 million (i.e. Chicago), but villages like Grayslake would be prevented from banning plastic bags. Goldberg, an avid animal lover, said she once counted 45 plastic bags on a two-mile stretch of road near her home. They were blown from a nearby landfill.

The mayor of Champaign, Don Gerard, also took to the mic to oppose the bill. "There's absolutely no reason in the world why a bill that is supposedly based on recycling programs and the environment, contains a caveat that prevents our home-rule authority on judging our own programs," he said.
Outlawing single-use plastic bags is a growing trend, especially on the West Coast, where Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and San Jose have all adopted such bans. The Outer Banks region of North Carolina enacted a ban in 2010, although Republicans are trying to repeal it. Meanwhile, Los Angeles is considering similar legislation.

To Goldberg’s surprise, the governor himself came to accept the signatures. To his credit, he literally accepted the five bags of signatures, refusing to let his aide help him carry the bags. “I’ve got it,” Quinn said. “I can handle them all.”

During his remarks, Quinn spoke about democracy and a person’s First Amendment right to petition the government—but just like a politician, he skirted the issue of whether he will sign or veto SB3442. Refusing to indicate his decision, he responded to questions with an elusive, “You’ll have to wait and see.”

“If you look at my record on the environment, I think that we’ve been very far-reaching at passing laws in Illinois to help our environment,” the governor said. Goldberg remains hopeful that he will veto the bill. The governor has 53 days to make his decision, and he told Goldberg she will be invited back come decision time. Until then, we are left with her last appeal.

"Please, Governor Quinn, think about my generation's future and how you can make it more environmentally safe for them," she lobbied. "And more importantly, let my community decide what is right for it."


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