Chicago would become the largest city in America to ban plastic grocery bags, under a proposed ordinance from Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno (1st).
Waving a white plastic bag for emphasis, Moreno said the bags were an environmental menace which were sapping city manpower.
"We use three billion of these a year," Moreno said. "This will free up our streets and sanitation workers to do potholes, and all the things that are not being done because they take the time to clean these bags up."
The proposed law would apply only to larger stores, those 5,000 square feet or greater.
"Any big box store, any large store will not be able to use these bags any longer, and they face tremendous fines if they do," he said.
Under provisions of the ordinance, stores would be required to provide customers with reusable bags, and Moreno said he hoped they focus their attention on bio-degradable alternatives.
"These bags cost taxpayers millions of dollars every year," he said. "They clog our sewers and litter our streets, while the giant corporations who use them make record profits."
The alderman thinks an ordinance is needed because the industry won't ban the bags on its own. He points to Whole Foods and Trader Joe's as examples of companies that already have successfully done away with plastic bags.
Moreno can always look west for guidance: San Francisco became the first city in the country to ban plastic bags at big supermarkets and drug stores.
Following Wednesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declined to take a position on the proposed ban.
In nearby Evanston, a five-cent fee is under consideration.