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What you need to know about Chicago's plastic bag ban

What you need to know about Chicago's plastic bag ban
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Beginning August 1, a new law will take effect in Chicago that bans most retailers from offering their customers the option to carry out their goods in traditional plastic bags. The new law aims to cut down on the negative impacts of pollution caused by common improper disposal of these bags. This ban follows in the footsteps of other big cities that have enacted similar laws, such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. Here are some things you need to know about the ban before it starts next month, as well as some ways for you to prepare for it:

What stores will it affect?

Any store with a floor area of more than 10,000 square feet that is part of a "chain store organization," which is defined as three or more stores having common ownership, or any store that is part of a franchise. So basically, any big-box retail chain like Jewel, Kohl's, Best Buy, etc. Stores that do not fall within those categories, such as mom-and-pop shops and small convenience stores, as well as restaurants, do not have to adhere to the plastic bag ban.

Will stores still offer paper bags?

Yes, the law doesn't affect the distribution of paper shopping bags. But those are kind of annoying to carry around, and depending on what store you go to, they might not be very durable. And environmentally speaking (since that's the spirit of this law), paper bags can be just as harmful as plastic bags when you factor in the energy costs and production processes of plastic bags.

What can I do to prepare?

If you want to conform with the spirit of this new ordinance, acquire some reusable bags for yourself and, more importantly, get in a routine of actually using them. Keep some in your car, near your work desk or hanging somewhere visible in your home so you're constantly reminded to bring them to the store when you go shopping.

I will definitely forget to bring those bags to the store with me. What then?

Most retailers plan to offer, at no extra charge to consumers, reusable plastic bags that are thicker than the current ones, can hold up to 22 pounds and can be reused 125 times.

Wait, seriously? Retailers' solution to the ban on standard plastic bags is to offer customers bigger, thicker plastic bags?

Yes. The ordinance allows retailers to offer reusable plastic bags, under the condition that these bags are at least 2.25 millimeters thick, can hold at least 22 pounds and can be reused 125 times. Despite the fact that this goes completely against the intentions of city lawmakers to ban plastic bags in Chicago, this is still totally allowable under the ordinance.

 

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Comments

6 comments
johnny P

PLEASE READ BELOW IF YOU WANT FACTS ON THIS ISSUE. I HAVE LOOKED UP THE FACTS AND NUMBERS USING SOME FROM THIS ARTICLE AND SOME FROM KNOWN DATA. FORM YOUR OWN OPINION BASED ON CLEAR CUT FACTS NOT WORDS:


I just got done visiting a local CVS in the loop and couldn't get over the fact these new "environmentally friendly plastic bags" are much thicker and seemingly use much more "plastic or materiel" than the older single use bags that have been demonized. I start to research the facts on the issue after I read above that the very issue I had (THE NEWER ONES ARE THICKER) is being confirmed and acknowledged.

THESE ARE THE FACTS

*New plastic bags in Chicago mandated to be 2.25 MILS thick.

*"lightweight plastic carrier bags normally have a thickness of approx. 12.7 microns (.5mils or .0005 inches) and are being phased out word wide" -Wikipedia

*1 MIL=25.4 MICRONS

THEREFORE USING THE APPROXIMATE THICKNESS OF PLASTIC BAGS SHOWN ABOVE, THERE IS MORE THAN 4X THE AMOUNT OF MATERIEL (PLASTIC, BIODEGRADABLE OR NOT) IN THE NEWER BAGS!

THE COSTS OF THE PLASTIC BAGS ARE BEING PASSED DOWN TO THE CONSUMER, WHETHER THEY SEE IT AS A FEE OR HAVE IT ALREADY COST INTO THE ITEM. SO THEIR SOLUTION IS TO MANDATE THICKER BAGS IN ORDER TO MAKE THEM MORE COSTLY WHICH IN TURN THEY *THINK* WILL MAKE EVERYONE STOP USING THEM AND BRING THEIR OWN...IS THIS A REALITY?

CAN IT BE ARGUED THAT THIS IN FACT WILL BE WORSE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?!? THERE IS A MANDATED 4 TIMES INCREASE IN THICKNESS, HENCE THAT MUCH MORE MATERIEL THAN OLDER BAGS...IS THIS BAN REALLY MAKING THAT MUCH MORE PEOPLE GO ONLY REUSABLE VS THE AMOUNT OF MORE PLASTIC GOING INTO THE SYSTEM???

Jennifer R

This seems to be a very snarky "report". Instead of "what you need to know" it should be "why I hate this new rule"

Terra B

I agree with Oblongata that this writer's tone and style are unprofessional in the extreme. Paper bags are "kind of annoying"? Really?!  And where's the evidence that they are "just as harmful"? 


I would caution MJ H and others that bags advertised as "biodegradable" and "compostable" most likely are not.   It really isn't hard to BYOBag when you go shopping.   


For a bit of history and other details about plastic bags, here's a piece looking back to 2008 when my brother banned free plastic from his own stand at the Evanston Farmers Market. http://www.blog.brockmanfamilyfarming.com/2015/07/plastic-revisited.html 

MJ H

The article does fail to mention the one alternative that is more sustainable then the others, compostable bags. Composting is continuing to grow in the city and utilizing compostable bags is a win win. Eliminate the use of petroleum based bags while educating people on composting and providing a tool to compost. 

Oblongata S

Seriously Time Out.

This is a very poorly written article. The position of the writer and the journalistic tone employed is on the wrong side of facts and common sense.

The dangers of choking to young children aside, plastic bags are entirely polluting the earth and any ban of such material should be treated with joy and applaud and not with whiny journalistic rhetoric like is being displayed in TimeOut.

Furthermore, for those who view this as a pointless affont by the lawmakers or see the grocery stores as complicit; Do Remember, bags are free. Totes have been around for about a decade. Get one. Helps plan your shopping. Be grateful you get paper bags as a replacement. They sit better in the trunk. And stop whining.

Glenn J

I have lived in Chicago for 9 yrs. I have purchased from Treasure Island the thicker reusable plastic bags mentioned. They are truly reusable. I have approximately 12 bags that are machine washable. Some of my bags are 3 yrs old. They do work.