Will We Ever Have a Real Plastic Bag Ordinance?

by Mike Nowak, President of CRC

“The Chicago City Council today voted 36-10 to ban plastic bags in most stores next year, a change that backers say will improve the city’s environment . . .” more​

Six years ago, in 2008, I testified before a Chicago City Council committee about finding a solution to the scourge of single-use plastic bags. At that time, the Council opted to enact a recycling ordinance that required retailers to display bins and signs to encourage citizens to bring their plastic bags back to the store for recycling. Aside from the usual supermarket displays, which were already in use, not much changed in Chicago. The ordinance, which is still on the books, quietly disappeared from sight. There has been no enforcement and no accountability. On March 25 of 2014, I once again appeared before City Council, this time to testify about a proposed ordinance to ban plastic bags outright. Here are some background statistics on the issue:

  • Approximately 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That’s more than one million bags per minute.
  • The Worldwatch Institute estimates that in the U.S. alone, an estimated 12 million barrels of non-renewable petroleum oil are required to produce the 100 billion bags consumed annually, at a cost of $500 million. 
  • 60,000 plastic bags are used in the U.S. every five seconds.
  • 2,568 plastic bags are used every minute in Chicago alone, which is
  • 3.7 million plastic each day, and about 3 billion bags every year.

We’ve turned our oceans and our Great Lakes into plastic soup. In some parts of the ocean there are six pounds of plastic for every pound of plankton. The plastic bag has appeared in so many trees that it has replaced the eagle as our national bird.