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Plastic bag tax once again contemplated

Kimberly Railey

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The Evanston Environment Board is reviving its proposal to tax plastic bags in the city more than five months after public opposition derailed earlier plans.

In a memo submitted Monday to Evanston City Council members, the Environment Board expressed their support for a five-cent tax on paper and plastic carryout bags.

The suggestion, originally slated for discussion at this week’s council meeting, will now be weighed next Monday, after debate on other agenda items ran unexpectedly long.

“It’s still very much pending,” Ald. Jane Grover (7th) said. “We had people last night who showed up to discuss it with us, but it got too late so we simply sent them home.”

Two of those advocates present were students from Northwestern’s Roosevelt Institute, a national organization dedicated to progressive activism. Weinberg senior Andrew Hobaugh, its co-president, said the group advocates the bag ordinance and concluded it aligns with the Evanston Climate Action Plan developed in 2008.

That plan outlines more than 200 strategies conducive to meeting its greenhouse emission reduction goal of 13 percent by 2012, according to its website.

Communication senior Elizabeth Miller, another representative from NU’s Roosevelt Institute, called the tax levy an effective way “to change consumers’ behavior while still giving them choices many people feel they deserve.”

Under the plan, merchants would retain two cents of the tax, with the other 3 percent being earmarked to fund educational programs at Evanston’s Ecology Center, 2024 McCormick Blvd.

Bulk items, produce, meat, prescriptions and restaurant leftovers would be exempt from the bag fee, according to the memo. It also includes a suggestion to distribute free reusable bags to residents, encouraging local organizations and the University to sponsor the giveaway.

The Environment Board’s proposal lacked estimates on the potential revenue that would be generated, but resident Michael Drennan said adults in the city use about 25 million plastic bags and two million paper bags each year.

The actions of the board have helped the city “move on the path to sustainability,” Drennan said at Monday’s council meeting.

Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th) introduced the measure for a bag tax in September 2010, originally proposing a 25-cent tax. This April, Burrus discussed reducing that tax to five cents.

Her proposal was sent back to an advisory committee in June when its odds of garnering council approval appeared slim.

At that meeting, Grover said Evanston residents are interested in reducing the number of single-use plastic bags but requested the panel consider whether educational efforts would be more effective than legislation.

The plastic bag tax will be discussed 7 p.m. Monday at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.


About the Writer
Kimberly Railey, Managing Editor

Kimberly Railey was a managing editor of The Daily. Her other past positions include In Focus editor, Development and Recruitment editor, City editor,...