Chicagoans will soon no longer be asked if they want paper or plastic when shopping at a large retailer.
With a vote of 36-10, aldermen on Wednesday passed an ordinance proposed by Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) to ban plastic bags at chain and franchise stores that operate within the city. Family owned stores and restaurants would not be affected.
The revised ordinance, which passed out of the council's Committee on Health and Environmental Protection last week, exempts restaurants and applies only to chain retailers -- those with three or more locations with the same owner -- or stores of more than 10,000 square feet.
Those larger retailers will need to start complying by August 2015. Smaller stores will need to follow suit a year later.
"While this particular ordinance is not perfect, it's one that I can accept," Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said.
"While we need to protect our environment, my voters, the people of the ward, are calling and saying, 'vote no, vote no, vote no, vote no,'" said Ald. Willie Cochran (20th).
Supporters claimed that 3.7 million plastic bags are used citywide on a daily basis, and an estimated 3 to 5 percent of all of those bags become litter. Opponents argued the ban would put undue strain on retailers and will deter new stores from moving to the city.
"Today Aldi, Costco, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's do not use these single-use plastic bags ... they're doing fine, so don't give me this is an anti-business, we've got great businesses doing well without these," the ordinance's sponsor, Ald. Joe Moreno, said.
Prior to its passage, Ald. Nick Sposato (36th) cautioned the ban would cost some manufacturing employees their jobs. Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said the ordinance widens "the gap between the haves and the have-nots," arguing that it places additional burdens on lower-income people who will be forced to purchase reusable bags.
The legislation has a slew of definitions, including what constitutes a "reusable" bag, which can be read on the website of the Chicago City Clerk.
Fines will range from $300 to $500 each day for each offense.