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Woodstock OKs plastic bag tax at major retailers

Bring your own bag or pay 10 cents each

Mayor Brian Sager responds to public comment during a Woodstock City Council Meeting on Jan. 15 at Woodstock City Hall, in Woodstock.
Mayor Brian Sager responds to public comment during a Woodstock City Council Meeting on Jan. 15 at Woodstock City Hall, in Woodstock.

Stock up on reusable grocery bags now or face a 10 cent a bag fee at major retailers in Woodstock.

Woodstock City Council has approved an ordinance that requires all stores 5,000 square feet and larger collect a plastic bag tax from customers who use store-provided plastic bags instead of bringing their own, according to city documents.

The seven largest retail stores in Woodstock include Walmart, Jewel-Osco, Woodstock Harley Davidson, Walgreens, Menards, Kohls and Farm and Fleet. Representatives from those stores were mostly supportive of the effort, according to city documents.

The stores will keep 3 cents from the 10 cent fee, with the rest of the money going to Woodstock’s environmental management fund, according to city documents.

Some have raised concerns that the tax is regressive.

“While I would like to see plastic bags go away, I don’t like people being overtaxed,” resident Victoria Doyle said. “To add a little bit more to some people is a lot. This is a tax on poor people.”

Mayor Brian Sager said that city officials have considered the impact the new ordinance would have on people with lower incomes.

Woodstock’s Environmental Commission and Cultural and Social Awareness Commission have been working on the effort since 2015, which included giving away bags to Woodstock residents, he said.

“The idea here is that there should be diminishing revenue from this fee because more and more people would be using reusable bags,” Sager said. “There are a plethora of agencies that give reusable bags out. There are a lot of opportunities for people, even those who are less fortunate.”

Cynthia Kanner, executive director of the Environmental Defenders of McHenry County, said anyone wishing to donate reusable bags for people who can’t afford to buy them could drop them off at the defenders’ office, 110 S. Johnson St.

Woodstock Food Pantry, 1033 Lake Ave., also will take bag donations for those in need, said volunteer John Headley.

Council member Mike Turner called the tax “the best you’ll ever have.”

“This is an avoidable tax,” he said. “This isn’t a tax you have to pay. Find a bag. Use the bag. Don’t pay the tax. It’s pretty simple.”

The fee will go into effect Jan 1.

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