Environmentalists Oppose Illinois Law Prohibiting Municipalities From Banning Plastic Bags

At the end of its spring session, the Illinois legislature passed a bill on the use and recycling of single-use plastic shopping bags. Now, a variety of environmental groups are standing in opposition to the legislation.

The proposed law would require plastic bag manufacturers to set up recycling programs with the goal of increasing the recycling rate by 12 percent by 2015 and to eventually make bags from at least 30 percent recycled content. It also would require manufacturers to register with and present plans to the state by next July; retail stores then could use bags only from registered manufacturers.

Max Muller, program director at Environment Illinois, said the recycling goals are paltry but still probably wouldn’t be met. What really irks him and some local elected officials, however, is that the bill would prohibit individual communities from enacting their own laws, which Muller said would do far more to reduce litter and environmental harm from bags.

“The bill is dolled up as a statewide recycling program … but proponents really want to lock the state into using plastic bags,” said Muller. “I don’t believe this bill is going to accomplish a thing.”

Plastic bag manufacturers and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association support the bill. Quinn, a Democrat, must decide this summer whether to sign it.

Champaign Mayor Don Gerard said his city council was considering a fee or ban on plastic bags — and had received no objections from store owners — when the legislature passed the bill in May.

“I cannot fathom why a special interest group would be working with our state legislators to … take away the rights of my city government to dictate our programs,” he said.

In Washington, DC, a plastic bag tax immediately reduced the amount of plastic bags in area landfills, and several communities across the United States have passed taxes or outright bans on the bags.

Policy to manage the waste stream is examined in several Roosevelt courses, including SUST 240 Waste this past spring and SUST 210 The Sustainable Future. For more information on these or any other of our courses, visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email applyRU@roosevelt.edu.

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