Oak Park makes plastic bag charge voluntary

Pilot program falls short of a ban

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Oak Park has been talking about banning plastic bags for years now, and while falling short of eliminating their use, the village's board of trustees has approved a plan to make it voluntary to charge a fee for them.

At its April 17 meeting, the board approved a proposal that establishes a two-year pilot program that would allow retailers to voluntarily begin charging 10 cents for plastic bags, similar to the 7-cent fee charged in Chicago.

The 10-cent fee would be split between the retailer and the village. The village's portion of the funds would be partially used to market participating retailers as certified green businesses with the goal of encouraging other retailers to follow. The funds collected also would be used for other environmental sustainability activities, according to the village.

The goal is to encourage customers to use their own bags and reduce the estimated 17 million plastic bags that are distributed in the village annually.

Nick Bridge, chair of the village's Environment and Energy Commission (EEC), voiced support for moving forward with an ordinance, but noted that it was not the recommendation of the EEC that the program be voluntary.

"Our recommendation was that it be applied to the larger producers, the bigger retailers in town," he said. "We think they're totally equipped to deal with it.

"In some ways, I think it's a little bit problematic making it voluntary, because we're not giving them any cover. One grocery does and the other doesn't. I guess there's what you would call a moral hazard there."

Karen Rozmus, Oak Park's environmental services manager, said that though it falls short of an outright ban, the ordinance would be "a step in the right direction." She said that although many believe that establishing a mandate on the fee, she added that it "can be a controversial issue for many of the large vendors."

Trustee Colette Lueck, who voted against the proposal, asked, "What is the incentive for anyone to do this when they don't have to?"

Rozmus noted that many in Oak Park are environmentally conscious and often talk to store owners about their policy on plastic bags and other environmental initiatives. 

"They might want to be part of the movement," she said.

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said it made sense to more gradually introduce the bag charge to get to a level where there is buy-in on charging for the bags, rather than making it an immediate requirement.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Ray Simpson  

Posted: April 21st, 2017 9:03 AM

@Richard Stephen - How about designing a nifty sign that says that this is a "EVERYTHING FREE ZONE" then we Copyright it and make millions. The symbol for infinity surrounded by the feared red circle and diagonal slash seems appropriate and strikes terror in the hearts of men. The feel good crowd and the feel bad crowd could all agree on something and our product would comply with the Oak Park Way of doing something so we don't have to do anything!

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: April 20th, 2017 8:07 PM

@ Richard Stephen: The 7-11 at 240 Chicago was robbed recently and one of the perpetrators brought their own bag to carry of the contents of the cash register. At least some of the message is getting through.

Richard Stephen  

Posted: April 20th, 2017 6:25 PM

I think that all the revenue collected from the sale of plastic bags could be used to print up nifty recyclable "Plastic Bag-Free Zone" sign for all of us to display in our windows. That's some virtue gesturing we could all get behind, I'm sure.

Chris Costello  

Posted: April 20th, 2017 8:05 AM

What prevented retailers from charging 10cents/bag last week and pocketing all of it?

Ray Simpson  

Posted: April 20th, 2017 7:19 AM

Are we now officially "The City of Oak Park?"" My recollection of high school government class taught us that a VILLAGE has a Village President and a Village Manager - never a Village Mayor. Do we now have a City Council? Just wondering.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: April 20th, 2017 7:10 AM

How about a totally recycled and fully biodegradable bag made of paper that we could call a grocery bag? I am sure that the original patent is now in the public domain and free for all to use. My grandmother, in Indiana recycled them to dry mushrooms by the back door. Has anyone considered how the bookkeeping ( only word in English language with 3 consecutive double letters) would work? Why not a "poor box" at the store exit and keep the store out of the picture?

Dennis Ryan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 19th, 2017 7:25 PM

It simply amazes me how some in our allegedly "progressive" village tend to go off half-cocked over any new initiative ?" especially one such as this that, in my opinion, is clearly overdue. Guys, plastic bags are an environmental liability! Look it up on your internet machine; these bags are a nasty gift that simply keeps on giving! While we alone cannot eliminate all plastic packaging, but we can certainly do our part to drive down the market for them by reducing their use. Consider getting in the habit of bringing your own re-usable bags to the grocery store. Or proactively ask for paper bags at the check-out. Not only might we awaken the lost art of grocery baggers skillfully stacking products in paper bags (I'm looking at you, Jewel on Madison!), but stores like Pete's and the Carnival in south OP might actually waive their insidious, absurd surcharge for those who choose the right thing by opting for paper bags!

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: April 19th, 2017 2:48 PM

For Oak Parkers! PLASTIC BAGS BAN. IN KENYA - Kenyans have applauded the move by the government to ban plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging terming it as a great move to curb the plastic bag menace.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 19th, 2017 1:28 PM

I've paid for bags in Ireland for years. We in the U.S. are slow to adopt the only way to drive day to day change that makes a difference for our environment. In full support.

James Peters from Oak Park  

Posted: April 19th, 2017 12:58 PM

Predatory taxes, not plastic bags, are Oak Park's biggest issue. This tax grab is wrapped in the aura of "good for the environment." Multiply the 17 million bags the story says are used in Oak Park each year by a nickel, and that could generate $850,000 per year: real money! We don't have a bag litter problem in our area, where people respect neighbors enough to properly dispose of trash. And the "voluntary" part is just until next year when the Village board can say, "See, voluntary didn't work. We'll make it the law."

John Butch Murtagh  

Posted: April 18th, 2017 10:28 PM

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb said it made sense to more gradually introduce the bag charge to get to a level where there is buy-in on charging for the bags, rather than making it an immediate requirement." If any one understands Anan plastic bag charge statement, please let please me know!

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: April 18th, 2017 10:10 PM

More than 14 million plastic bags are used by local stores each year. The environmental impact should not be dismissed.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: April 18th, 2017 5:06 PM

A nanny proposition would be one in which the government is unduly interfering with personal choice in an overprotective manner (e.g., the failed war on drugs), whereas discouraging the use of plastic bags is an environmental initiative. I have a dog too--if you can't afford to buy poop bags (a box of 300 biodegradable bags costs $12 on Amazon), then you probably can't afford a dog either--pets are expensive. Of all the ways that government fleeces us, it hardly seems worth it to get worked up over a voluntary 10-cent disposable plastic bag "tax" when there are better options available.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: April 18th, 2017 3:29 PM

First, they significantly raise the price of drinking soft drinks in Cook County. Now this? Another regressive tax. If the intention is to stop people from buying the bags, make them illegal. And then watch as Oak Park becomes the poopy lawn capital of the western suburbs!

Alan Albro from Oak Park  

Posted: April 18th, 2017 3:25 PM

I could only go along with this if the consumer would pay the exact amount per bag that the market pays (which is probably more like 2 cents maximum per bag). Otherwise it's more like a punitive tax and little else.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 18th, 2017 2:57 PM

I am going to voluntarily not shop at any store that thinks this is a good idea, so I can be part of the movement that thinks this is a stupid idea.

Natalie Stein  

Posted: April 18th, 2017 2:48 PM

Another nanny proposition. The ones you hurt are the elderly and low income. People use bags to clean dog waste, dispose of garbage and multiple uses they don't all end up on the street and, if, it is an environmental issue what are you going to do about all the food packaging, regulate that too? Just another way to collect money, nothing more.

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