State

Lawmakers take aim at plastic pollution with package of bills

Includes plastic bag tax, Styrofoam ban, bottle recycling rebate

State Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, speaks during a news conference Tuesday at the Capitol in Springfield to promote her House Bill 3335 as part of a package of bills to reduce plastic pollution. Williams' bill would tax non-reusable carryout bags by 10 cents. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Ben Orner)
State Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, speaks during a news conference Tuesday at the Capitol in Springfield to promote her House Bill 3335 as part of a package of bills to reduce plastic pollution. Williams' bill would tax non-reusable carryout bags by 10 cents. (Capitol News Illinois photo by Ben Orner)

SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to tackle the growing problem of plastic pollution, a group of state lawmakers from both legislative chambers touted a series of bills Tuesday that would tax or ban single-use plastics and aim to boost recycling.

The four proposals have the support of organizations such as the Illinois Environmental Council and the Sierra Club of Illinois. Advocates said the aim is to increase sustainability, encourage environmental consciousness and improve the health and appearance of public spaces, land, and waterways.

“We’re attacking this at every level to make sure that we really start to stem the tide of plastics in our society,” said state Rep. Bob Morgan, a Democrat from Deerfield, whose district borders Lake Michigan.

Nearly 11 million pounds of plastic waste enter Lake Michigan every year, according to a 2016 study by the Rochester Institute of Technology, the most of any of the Great Lakes.

Plastics do not decompose and instead break into smaller and smaller pieces that fish and other wildlife mistake for food. These microplastics can also slip through water treatment plants and into tap water. A study published last year in the journal environmental Science & Technology found the average American ingests as many as 121,000 microplastics every year.

“The time is now to do something to save our environment from drowning in plastic,” said state Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, a Democrat from Glenview and sponsor of House Bill 5169.

Her bill, along with an identical Senate Bill 3677, would ban polystyrene foam – commonly known as brand name Styrofoam – by 2022. Polystyrene is a nondegradable material used in house insulation, packaging, and takeout food containers.

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