Chicago suburb moves to ban grocery bags

Shopper with an "I'm Not a Plastic Bag" shopping tote.

JEREMY HOBSON: Well Just in the last week two places on opposite sides of the country have voted to ban plastic bags at supermarkets -- Santa Clara County here in Calif. and the village of Southampton in N.Y. Both places are following the lead of the city of San Francisco which became the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags at stores four years ago.

Now, it looks like a Chicago suburb wants to take the next step as Odette Yousef reports from Chicago Public Radio.


ODETTE YOUSEF: Evanston city council member Coleen Burrus wants to cut down on waste. So she introduced a proposal to charge 5 cents for every plastic or paper bag that shoppers pick up at the checkout line.

COLEEN BURRUS: I consider this ordinance an opening salvo.

That salvo quickly turned into an all-out barrage. Burrus and her peers are now thinking of a complete ban on all disposable bags.

That's right, plastic -- and paper.

LEE GAEDE: I think that's a little bit too much. I really do. I think that's taking it a little too far.

I asked Evanston's lunchtime grocery shoppers what they thought.

KRISTIN ALEXANDER: I don't know. It sounds like a good idea to me. Maybe start with the cost, and then eventually maybe go to the ban.

For the record, both Lee Gaede and Kristin Alexander brought their own reusable cloth bags with them. Ironically, Evanston's effort to save the environment might actually endanger something else -- goodwill toward environmentalists.

AL HERSHKOWITZ: It's just going to get people to think that the environmental community is completely out of touch with consumer behavior and ordinary life.

That's Al Hershkowitz with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Hershkowitz thinks bag fees are better. He says they make people conscious of the true cost of their shopping habits. And, the fees can be donated to environmental causes, which would lessen the pain of state and federal cuts that many groups now face.

In Evanston, Ill., I'm Odette Yousef for Marketplace.

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