- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed a new 7-cent fee on paper and plastic bags as part of the city's 2017 budget, as reported by DNA Info.
- The city implemented a partial ban on thin plastic bags last year but that has proven unsuccessful because many shoppers are still throwing away the thicker plastic bags being provided by stores.
- This new fee could generate up to $13 million in revenue per year. The city would get 5 cents from every bag and retailers would keep the remainder.
The goal is to encourage Chicago residents to bring reusable bags, or at least get more mileage out of the paper and plastic bags they end up paying for. Some environmental advocates have expressed concern that this will reverse the ban on thin plastic bags and are calling for a 10-15 cent fee, if not an all-out ban.
The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce has come out against the idea of a bag tax and more opposition can be expected from plastic industry groups. Though it's a small portion of the fee the idea of dedicating money to retailers goes against positions these groups have taken in California and elsewhere. The U.S. Virgin Islands recently became the third territory to enact some form of plastic bag ban, but no state has officially done so and this debate continues to play out in cities and towns around the country.
Depending on the outcome, this new plan could also help make the city's recycling collection easier. Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation banned bags of any kind from recycling carts in January though compliance has been challenging. As of May, the department's commissioner said only 10% of the waste being collected was actually recyclable.