Beginning Jan. 1, Oak Park shoppers in many of the larger retail stores will be charged 10 cents for every single-use bag the store provides to carry home their purchases.
The new local law, which applies to retail stores of 5,000 or more square feet, is intended to reduce the negative impact single-use bags have on the environment.
The fee applies to paper as well as plastic, officials say, because paper bags consume enormous amounts of natural resources to manufacture and create their own type of environmental issues when not disposed of properly.
Once collection of the fee begins, the retailer will retain half of the fee to help allay costs of implementing the program, with the other half remitted to the Village to fund local environmental initiatives.
The goal of the program is not to generate revenue, officials say, but to change behavior.
As many as 50 percent of Oak Park residents already rely on reusable bags, a practice the citizen volunteers on the Environment & Energy Commission who recommended the new law hope will grow once the fee goes into effect.
Exemptions to the fee will apply, including for bags provided by a pharmacist to contain a prescription drug and for plastic bags intended for a specific use, such as for 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 will be exempt from the fee, as will 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.
Help for consumers
Over the next few months, the Village will be working with retailers to provide reusable bags to those individuals who may not be able to afford to buy them.
More information will be posted at www.oak-park.us.
Impact of Single-Use Bags
- Americans use an estimated 100 billion plastic bags a year, or about 360 bags for every man, woman and child. If tied together, those 100 billion plastic bags would reach around the Earth’s equator 773 times.
- High-density polyethylene plastic bags, which are made from non-renewable fossil fuels, take more than 200 years to degrade. As polyethylene breaks down, toxic substances leach into the soil and waterways, and enter the food chain.
- Paper bags have a higher carbon footprint than plastic because more energy is required to produce and transport them.