Single-use plastic bag tax or ban on Northbrook's radar, village official says
The Village of Northbrook is considering whether to tax or ban single-use plastic bags, a village official said during a recent interview.
"Yes, definitely I support it," Northbrook Architectural Control Commissioner John D. Albrecht told the North Cook News. "The village has had single-use plastic bag reduction on its radar and is considering a ban versus a tax. The Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) was tasked to make a recommendation to trustees, and that recommendation is anticipated soon."
Albrecht said he would prefer a ban but would be willing to support a tax or fee. He also opined that compostable or biodegradable single-use bags, such as those provided at area Trader Joe's and Whole Foods stores, would "add another solution to the environmental tool kit."
"A ban would add Northbrook to the elite group of bold municipalities walking the walk and taking this environmental concern seriously, which is also the type of PR that attracts and retains like-minded residents supportive of sustainability in everyday activities," Albrecht continued. "Residents and businesses would adjust over time and ultimately benefit."
While no bag ban appears to be pending in the Illinois legislature, taxes on the bags are in place and moves have been made to levy more taxes. Last fall, Illinois 30th District Sen. Terry Link (D-Vernon Hills) filed an amendment to Senate Bill 1597 that would levy a minimum tax of 5 cents for single-use carryout bags at all retail establishments in the state. The amendment would cover paper and plastic bags and would preempt home-rule county regulation of carryout bags. The 30th District includes all or parts Beach Park, Buffalo Grove, Green Oaks, Lincolnshire, Mundelein, North Chicago, Riverwoods, Wheeling, Vernon Hills and Waukegan.
SB 1597 has been in "sine die" status in the state senate since Jan. 9, meaning no date for further meetings or hearings has been scheduled.
While some scientists doubt how green plastic bag bans really are, they do have their proponents. Earlier this month, the National Conference of State Legislators issued a report that said plastic-bag-use reduction would mitigate "harmful impacts" in the world's oceans, rivers, lakes and forests, in addition to reducing pressure on landfills and waste management. Only California and Hawaii have plastic bag bans in place, with ban legislation enacted in California in 2014 and Hawaii having a "de facto statewide ban" that prohibits nonbiodegradable plastic bags at checkout, according to the report.
The closest Illinois has come to a plastic bag ban, prior to the proposed SB 1597 amendment, was passage of state House Resolution 1139 in 2016, which established "Recycle Thin Film Friday" to reclaim plastic shopping bags and to encourage Illinois consumers to develop the reusable-bag habit. It is not clear what effect that resolution has had in the state, but it certainly has garnered little attention since its passage.
Later that same year, Chicago enacted its "Checkout Bag Tax" of 7 cents per bag used in retail sales and at checkouts in the city.
Back in Northbrook, Albrecht said a ban would have benefits that would rise above its economic impact in the village.
"It seems that a ban would have a nominal direct cost to businesses and therefore could indirectly cost the village, but doing the right thing seems a no-brainer that would reinforce the positive PR message and outweigh minor financial detriment," he said.
A ban would reduce landfill waste "if not trash per se," Albrecht said.
It certainly would remove bags from the trash heap, Albrecht said.
"Clean plastic bags are recyclable at a few stores but are often thrown out or reused as garbage bags, etc.," he said. "Also, most stores now sell multi-use durable plastic bags, which helps reduce single use plastic bags in waste."