Plastic bag ban begins August 1

July 29, 2015

Plastic bag ban begins

The ubiquitous plastic grocery bags that float aimlessly through the city and take literally centuries to decompose in a landfill should become scarcer in coming months as the City’s ban on disposable plastic bags becomes reality.

Starting Saturday, Aug. 1, grocers and other large chain retailers can offer sturdier plastic bags for customer use, however, most will charge a small fee for those reusable bags. Double bagging will no longer be allowed. Only plastic bags that are at least 2.25 millimeters thick (making them more durable and easier to reuse), are allowed under the new ordinance.

With this ban, Chicago joins a growing number of U.S. cities that have made the switch to reusable and more environmentally-friendly bagging. San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to ban plastic bags in 2007, and recent years, plastic bags have been restricted in many more cities, including Los Angeles, Cambridge, Mass., Seattle, Wash. and Austin, Texas. From an environmental standpoint, these laws appear to be working; for example, Santa Monica, Calif. has reduced its plastic use by 78 million bags since its ban took effect in 2011.

Consumers should consider using reusable canvas bags – many stores that don’t already do so will begin selling them, and tote bags (often given away for free at events and fairs) are another option. Stores will also continue to offer paper bags, arguably an environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic, and some retailers will also offer the thicker plastic reusable bags for purchase on-site. The thicker bags are said to carry up to 22 pounds and last for up to 125 shopping trips.

For additional information on the new law, please contact the Office of Sustainability at officeofsustainability@uchicago.edu