Evanston City Council Bans Plastic Bags: Tips to Gear Up for Shopping with Reusable Bags

Our monthly blog, edited by Dayenu (climate action and environmental justice) Circle members Chris Wynn and Sharon Smaller,  will give you ideas, information, resources, and things you can do to make this world a better place environmentally, tikkun olam. As a community, we can learn from each other, so we welcome your ideas and questions. Please share with us your successes in your endeavors to “go green.”

Unless you have been living under a hosta plant, if you are an Evanston resident, you have probably gotten an inkling that the Evanston City Council recently passed an ordinance banning plastic bags. This law goes into effect August 1, so it’s just a tad more than a month away before you need to make a small change in your routine. As a caveat, this blog reflects information gathered up to this point, (06.23.23) but the City will most likely be issuing more details as we get closer to the start date.

Before getting into some of the specifics, Green Maven sends a shout out to our city council members for being forward thinking on seeking measures to reduce the amount of plastic we use in our day-to-day lives. The plastic bag ban only applies to retailers and restaurants of 10,000 square feet or more, so in other words, it’s not meant to impact smaller businesses.

According to the city’s website, the ordinance is connected to Evanston’s CARP (Climate Action and Resilience Plan) and “aims to eliminate petroleum-based, single-use products by phasing out the use of single-use plastics by 2025. The implementation of this action draws Evanston closer to its environmental goals by encouraging source reduction and minimizing the direct impacts of pollution, water use, greenhouse gas emissions, and litter.”

On practical terms, what does the plastic bag ban mean for you if you live or shop in Evanston? It’s important to know that paper bags will still be available, but you will have to pay for them at 10 cents apiece. This is in essence a small tax, but the end result is similar to shopping at Aldi’s and paying for your bags. The idea behind the ban is to encourage folks to bring their own bags when they shop. Reusable shopping bags are for sale practically everywhere there is a checkout counter. They come in all sizes and colors, logoed and plain, and cloth or plastic (yikes)! You probably have a stack somewhere in your home. Now is the time to dig them out, and, if needed, throw them in the washing machine.

Next, decide where you want to stash them. By the front door or the back door? In your car or garage? In your pantry or in a kitchen drawer? We keep ours in the back of the car, and I have to say it was a relatively easy habit to acquire. You might locate them in several handy spots (although it might be like scotch tape where you swear you have multiple rolls but when you go looking, none can be found!). Dayneu member Chris Wynn keeps some roll up nylon bags in her purse as a convenience. In our household, after we are done unloading groceries, we either take the bags out to the car for the next grocery run or we keep them on the doorknob of the front closet to remind us.

I hear a lot of people say that they simply forget to bring their reusable bags into the grocery store with them when they shop, but the landscape will change as of August. As you survey everyone with their reusable bags as they enter the store, it will likely jog your memory. Then, you’ll scurry back to the car to retrieve your bags. This was certainly the case for wearing a face mask before entering a store, so I expect something similar will be at play.

Another part of the new ban concerns those ubiquitous thin film produce bags. I have to admit that I’m spotty on remembering to bring our reusable produce bags, so I will (and my husband) have to develop some new strategies to work this one out. Again cloth produce bags are widely available at the grocery store or online, so this might be a great time to stock up. Also, ask yourself does this item really require a bag, particularly fruits and vegetables with a peel, such as avocados, bananas, oranges, and tangerines.

Tell us about your gearing up for the great plastic bag ban and we might share it in a future issue of the Green Maven.