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Alderman: Chicago plastic bag ban gaining support

Published: Sunday, March 9, 2014 12:05 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO – The sponsor of a measure to ban Chicago retailers from putting merchandise in plastic bags says he has the votes to get it approved by the City Council and “it’s time to move.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Alderman “Proco” Joe Moreno introduced a new version of the ban at Wednesday’s council meeting.

Moreno pushed a similar environmental measure last year that would have prohibited Chicago retailers larger than 5,000 square feet from putting merchandise in plastic bags, but that proposal faltered amid opposition from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Moreno’s latest version extends the ban to smaller retailers. He said aldermen who have only small businesses in their wards asked him to include those stores, saying their districts otherwise wouldn’t see an improvement.

Moreno said he is “very confident” he has the votes.

“We’ve been kicking this around for years. I’m not a very patient guy, but I’ve been patient on this,” he said. “It’s time to move.”

Emanuel’s office hasn’t taken a position on the latest proposal. In an emailed statement, his office said it shares Moreno’s commitment to “ensuring a cleaner Chicago” and looks forward to seeing a final ordinance.

But the Illinois Retail Merchants Association says the ban is essentially a “hidden tax” because paper bags cost three times more than plastic.

Tanya Triche, the group’s vice president and general counsel, said if the council doesn’t allow retailers to impose a 10-cent charge on paper bags it could hurt the mayor’s efforts to put more grocery stores in so-called “food deserts” – areas with little access to healthy and affordable food.

“It’s a hidden tax on retailers when you ban the plastic bag and don’t impose the fee. And when you raise the cost of doing business in a fragile economy, you put jobs and hours worked in jeopardy,” Triche said.

Alderman George Cardenas, a co-sponsor of the plan and chairman of the council’s Committee on Health and Environmental Protection, said the proposal could be heard by his committee in a few weeks.

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Information from: Chicago Sun-Times, http://www.suntimes.com/index

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