Beginning Jan. 1, shoppers in Oak Park’s larger retail stores will be charged 10 cents for every single-use bag the store provides to carry home 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 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 transport, and create their own type of environmental issues when not disposed of properly.
The retailer will retain half of the fee, with the other half used to fund local environmental initiatives. The goal of the program is not to generate revenue, however, but to change behavior.
As many as 50 percent of Oak Park residents already rely on reusable bags, and the citizen volunteers on the Environment & Energy Commission recommended the new law with hopes of increasing the use of reusable bags.
Exemptions to the fee will apply, including to bags provided by a pharmacist to contain a prescription drug; intended for initial use as a dry cleaning, garbage, pet waste or yard waste bag; given at a seasonal event, such as a farmers market, street fair or yard sale, provided by a restaurant for carryout of prepared or leftover food or drink; or used to package bulks items or to wrap a perishable item, such as meat.
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.