Chicago’s New Bag Tax Begins: What You Need to Know

Starting Wednesday, shoppers that forget to bring a bag to the grocery store will have to pay the price. 

Chicago's new bag tax takes effect on Feb. 1, meaning a tax of 7 cents per bag will be added at the checkout counter of all stores across the city. 

The fee applies to all bags, both paper and plastic, and was passed to replace Chicago's ban on lightweight plastic bags that was repealed Jan. 1 after 16 months. [[408543245, C]]

The 7 cents-a-bag rate was a compromise decided on when Mayor Emanuel agreed to lift the plastic bag ban. Five cents of each fee will go to the city, and two cents to store merchants. 

The tax is expected to generate roughly $13 million a year, with the city receiving about $9.2 million and the rest retained by the businesses. [[409377645, C]]

Some bags are exempt from the tax, including: 

  • bags used to package loose bulk items, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, candy, cookies or small hardware items
  • bags containing frozen foods, meat or fish, prepackaged or not
  • bags to wrap flowers, potted plants or other damp items
  • bags that separate food or merchandise that could damage or contaminate other items when placed together in a bag
  • bags that contain unwrapped prepared foods or bakery goods
  • bags provided by a pharmacist to hold prescription drugs
  • packages of garbage bags, pet waste bags or yard waste bags
  • bags provided by a restaurant for carry-out or dine-in food
  • newspaper bags
  • dry cleaning or garment bags
  • plastic bags with a retail price of at least fifty cents ($0.50) each

The tax will also not apply to bags used to carry items purchased through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or a similar governmental food assistance program.

If you still don't have a reusable bag to avoid paying the tax, city officials are planning to distribute free, reusable "Chi Bags" at seven CTA locations during the evening commute on Wednesday. [[407909435, C]]

Some retailers are planning to give away reusable bags as well. On Wednesday, the first 200 guests at each of Target's 16 Chicago locations will receive a free bag, as will the first 1,000 customers at each of Whole Foods' 12 locations across the city.

The new fee is just one of many that will cost Chicagoans in 2017, with several new laws taking effect, including a new water tax, another property tax hike and more parking meters.

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