Starting Wednesday, February 1, all stores in the Chicago will charge customers seven cents per paper or plastic carry-out bag. You can avoid this tax by bringing your own bag to carry items from your favorite stores.
Chicago joins several cities across the country, including Seattle, Austin, Dallas, San Francisco and San Jose, in charging a tax on single-use plastic bags in stores. This past fall the seven-cent tax unanimously passed by the Chicago City Council, replacing a farce of a plastic bag ban that most retailers avoided by offering thicker plastic bags. Now shoppers in Chicago have the choice to pay for a plastic bag or take home groceries and other items in their own reusable bags.
According to Surfrider Wisconsin the average American uses 360 plastic bags per year. Along with other types of plastic waste it is estimated that human activity leads to more than 10 million tons of plastic getting dumped in our oceans each year. San Francisco estimates it costs roughly 17 cents per bag to clean up and landfill plastic bag litter. In Chicago, single-use plastic bags are a major type of litter that clogs our sewers and can be seen “decorating” almost any tree in the neighborhood.
Several attempts have been made through laws and individual choice campaigns to reduce single-use plastic bag use and litter. Since plastic bags clog machinery at recycling facilities, they must be recycled separately from all other materials. The State of Illinois requires grocery stores to offer customers a plastic bag recycling drop-off option, though it is estimated only a few percent of all bags get recycled using this method. In 2015 Chicago’s plastic bag ban took effect. Quickly we saw retailers respond with thicker plastic bags that adhered to letter of the law but not necessarily the spirit.
Since passage of this ordinance the city has been working with retailers to update their point-of-sale process so that the seven-cent tax is shown on every receipt. Retailers will retain two cents of the seven-cent tax to offset the costs of each bag. The remaining five cents will be used to pay for city service delivery. This revenue sharing agreement helped win the support of retailers across the city and gives them incentive to make shoppers aware of the tax.
Shoppers will not be charged the tax for bags used to gather products in a store or to hold prescription medications. The bag tax will be applied to both plastic and paper carry-out bags used at checkout.
Do you need a reusable bag? The City of Chicago is offering a limited number of bags for free. You can pick one up at my Ward Service Office, 7356 N. Greenview. But hurry! There’s a limited supply.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office at 773.338.5796 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any assistance with this new ordinance.