Though they are often as ubiquitous in the city as stop signs or parking meters, plastic bags have become the target of one Chicago alderman's quest to make the city a more environmentally-friendly place.
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), who has been widely described as Chicago City Council's "hipster" representative for his love of punk rock, karaoke and progressive public policy, last week said that he was beginning work on a new ordinance that would ban the use of plastic bags by retailers occupying stores larger than 5,000-square-feet in city limits.
Moreno, who is also a Huffington Post blogger, plans to officially introduce the ordinance during the Nov. 2 council meeting.
The alderman told HuffPost Chicago he has thus far received an "overwhelmingly positive" response from his constituents and other aldermen alike. He even is confident his plastic bag-banning ordinance will be something Mayor Rahm Emanuel could get behind.
"Bottom line, this is a triple win. It's pro-consumer, pro-efficiency and pro-environment," Moreno said of the ordinance. "We're going to get rid of the scourge of plastic bags and it's going to be done by what I think is good public policy and we're no longer going to tolerate this product that flies around our streets and clogs up our sewers."
Moreno says he initially wanted to introduce a new tax for retail businesses that utilize plastic bags in order to generate revenue for the city in addition to incentivizing that businesses "do the right thing." But the city's law department countered that such a tax would likely require a change in state law and may even violate the state constitution.
And while the West Town alderman added that he is not typically a big fan of banning anything, he said that it is important for local government to "lead on this issue." Already, many prominent food retailers in the city, including Aldi, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, have eliminated their plastic bags, but still he said an estimated 3 billion bags swirl around the city in a given year.
"It is evident that this is a situation where government can come in and make a huge paradigm shift," Moreno continued.
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association is expected to battle Moreno's ordinance. An association spokeswoman told CBS Chicago that "consumers are using them. They obviously want to continue to use them, so we continue to provide them."
If Chicago were to pass a plastic bag ban, they would join a handful of American cities such as Aspen, Colo., and San Francisco which have already done just that. Other cities, including Boulder, Colo., have looked into either banning the bags or charging a fee, while Washington, D.C., in 2010, instituted a small fee for plastic bag users. Elsewhere in the world, nations such as South Africa, Ireland, China and Bangladesh have discouraged the use of plastic bags through fees or outright bans.
Locally, the environment board of near northern suburb Evanston this week recommended the institution of a 5-cent fee for users of both paper and plastic shopping bags in all retail businesses, as TribLocal reports. Evanston Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), a vocal supporter of instituting an outright ban, has argued that fees would not go far enough, as WBEZ reported when the issue was first brought up in May.
WATCH a video report on Ald. Moreno's push for a Chicago plastic bag ban: