Partial Plastic Bag Ban Exempts Mom and Pop Small Businesses

Chicago laws, plastic grocery bags, reusable bags, plastic bag ban, Illinois laws, small businessesEvery year in Chicago over 3 billion plastic bags are used in the city. However, a new law passed by the Chicago City Council at 36-10 votes has resulted in a partial ban on the use of plastic bags by retailers and other local businesses. Luckily, this plastic bag ban does not apply to many mom and pop grocers, restaurants and other small business. Our small business law attorneys believe that the passing of this partial ban serves a dual role of providing stronger environmental protections for the city, while actually looking out for the small businesses in Chicago.

The New Partial Plastic Bag Ban Law

The new partial plastic bag ban was motivated by the negative environmental effects that are caused when plastic bags are disposed of. Plastic bags are blamed for the death of a variety of marine wildlife and birds because these bags jam waterways, landfills, and also get stuck in trees and fences. The law provides that all covered retailers must “provide reusable bags, recyclable paper bags or any combination thereof [to customers to be used to] carry away goods from the point of sale.” Those businesses who are not exempted from the law will receive fines for noncompliance ranging from $300-500 for each offense. Chicago area merchants tried to get a 10-cent tax on all paper bags as a means to allow retailers to recover the costs of switching from plastic bags. It was asserted that such a tax would encourage consumers to utilize reusable bags, as a means to avoid the tax. However, this tax did not make it into the final version of the law.

The plastic bag ban is considered “partial” because it exempts a variety of small businesses operating in the city. All Chicago-area restaurants are excluded from the plastic bag ban. Furthermore, non-franchise independent local small businesses operating in spaces under 10,000 square feet are also exempt from the law. This exemption is significant because it prevents additional burdens from being placed on small mom-and-pop retailers who aren’t as able as large stores to cover the costs of purchasing paper bags, which can cost at least three times more than plastic bags. This intention is clear as seen by the fact that stores under 10,000 square feet that could be exempt under the law must have less than three stores to receive the exemption. This rule still requires large chains like 7-Eleven, who have small spaces, but have lots of locations in the city, to follow the ban.

Concerns About the Effects of the New Plastic Bag Ban

The movement to ban plastic bags has been going on for awhile and the partial ban is a compromise that has been seven years in the making. However, the bill has not been met with unanimous support. Alderman Leslie Hairston of the 5th district on the South Side believes that the additional costs of paper bags will discourage big name grocers from coming to the South Side of Chicago. Her concerns seem to have some merit. It is common knowledge that the South Side is a food desert where citizens have to travel outside of their neighborhood just to visit a full service grocery store. In fact, Hairston’s district is home to the only former Dominick’s grocery store location that has failed to have a new tenant move in to replace the grocery giant.

However, some believe that the ban will not discourage big groceries from operating in Chicago. Alderman Joe Moreno raised the point that successful grocery chains such as Costco, Aldi and Trader Joes have still been successful even after imposing their own plastic bag bans. Furthermore, even if such discouragement did prevent large stores from coming to Chicago, this could serve to bring more customers to local area small grocery businesses, which would help foster local area business growth.

The passing of the partial plastic bag ban is sure to have positive impacts on the environment, but the negative impacts it could have will remain to be seen until the ban officially comes into force. Contact the small business law attorneys here at the Gierach Law Firm in Naperville, Illinois, for all of the small business law issues that you may be facing.