Bringing a reusable bag on a shopping trip in Oak Park is not only environmentally friendly, but also cost effective now that the Village’s retail single-use bag law is in effect.
As of Jan. 1, shoppers in Oak Park’s larger retail stores are being charged 10 cents for every single-use bag the merchant provides to carry home purchases.
Half of the 10-cent fee is retained by retailers to allay cost of implementing the program, while the other half is remitted to the Village to help fund local environmental initiatives.
The new local law is not about making money, officials say, but reducing the negative impact single-use bags — both plastic and paper — have on the environment.
High-density polyethylene plastic bags, which are made from non-renewable fossil fuels, take more than 200 years to degrade.
Paper bags have an even a higher carbon footprint than plastic because more energy is required to produce and transport them.
By enacting a fee, Oak Park has joined a number of other environmentally conscious municipalities across the country in adopting laws aimed at reducing single-use bags and their environmental impacts.
Indications are that such laws are helping change shopping behavior. A study conducted recently in neighboring Chicago found that the number of single-use bags used per shopping trip dropped 42 percent after the city put a similar fee in place last February.
Reusable bags already are common in Oak Park, according to a study conducted by the Village’s Environment & Energy Commission. In researching their recommendations for the new local law, citizen volunteers on the commission determined that more than half of all residents already rely on reusable bags.
Exemptions to the local fee do apply. These include bags provided by a pharmacist to contain a prescription drug and for plastic bags intended for a special use, such as dry cleaning, garbage, pet waste or yard waste.
Bags given at the point of sale at a seasonal event, such as a farmers market, street fair or yard sale, also are exempt from the fee, as are bags provided by a restaurant for carryout or used by a grocer to package a bulk item or wrap a perishable item, such as meat.
For more information on the new fee, including a list of stores where the 10-cent bag fee applies visit www.oak-park.us/bringyourbag.
Free reusable bags available…Reusable bags are available to all residents free of charge in the lobbies at Village Hall, 123 Madison St., and the Public Works Center, 201 South Blvd. Officials ask that residents limit taking one bag per household. The Village also is working with local not-for-profit organizations to provide reusable bags to individuals who may not be able to afford to buy them. Contact email@example.com for more information.
No plastic bags in recycling bins…Residents who have plastic bags they’d like to dispose of are reminded not to discard them in curbside recycling carts and bins. Plastic bags often get caught in equipment at recycling centers, potentially breaking or stopping machinery. A wide variety of plastic bags, films and wraps can be discarded in bins at local grocery stores. Visit www.plasticfilmrecycling.org for a list of items that can be recycled at stores. Plastic bags are also accepted by the Animal Care League, 1013 Garfield Street. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.