Chicago plastic bag ban may mean higher grocery costs - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Proposed plastic bag ban leads to possible paper bag tax

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

If City Council approves a proposed plastic bag ban, the days of choosing between paper or plastic could be winding down – and grocery costs may increase for Chicago customers and businesses.

A new Mariano's opened in Ukrainian Village on Tuesday. Alderman Joe Moreno (1st) is a huge supporter of the ban on plastic bags at all Chicago retailers. Moreno reportedly introduced an expanded version of the year old proposal at a City Council meeting earlier this month.

Paper bags cost retailers about $0.10. Plastic bags cost them $0.03.

"This in effect is a tax on retailers, because it raises retailers cost," The Illinois Retail Merchants Association Vice President and General Counsel Tanya Triche said of the proposed plastic bag ban.

"They have to order more paper bags as a result of banning plastic bags, and so when a retailers' cost are raised, many retailers can't afford to absorb that extra cost, so that cost is going to be passed down," Triche said. "Most likely you'll see it in higher prices."

For more than four decades, Frank Pedota's family owned business has weathered many economic storms. He said a plastic bag ban would hurt, but that Bari Subs and Italian Foods would survive.

"Whatever needs to be done, we do, you know?" Pedota told FOX 32's Tisha Lewis. "Whatever the city of Chicago says, we do."

"I can see their point of view, but for us, it would make things a little harder, much harder," Pedota said. "Plastic bags are cheaper, paper bags are much more expensive."

"Is that what consumers want? Do consumers want to pay higher prices for grocers just to ban plastic bags? We think not," Triche said.

Even so, Pedota said they've lasted this long – they'll weather the storm.

"We've survived because we have a niche," Pedota explained. We're an Italian specialty store. We're noted for our sandwiches, our beef and sausage."

A plastic bag ban is just another obstacle Pedota's business will overcome.

The IRMA urged the Chicago City Council on Monday to impose a five or ten cent tax on paper bags before putting a plastic bag ban into place.

The association said the tax would offset the price of no plastic for smaller retailers and to nudge customers to think twice about bag usage - maybe even bring recyclable bags. A tax would mean the merchant and the consumer could blame the city for the additional cost.

The Health and Environmental Committee met during the noon hour to consider proposed ban and tax on Tuesday. Shoppers told FOX 32 News they support recycling. But being forced to do it is not popular.

"I use recycle bags, they hold more," one shopper said. "But I don't think they should tell me what to do, start charging us for something else."

"There's got to be a way for it to be feasible, good for the planet," another shopper said. "If the money goes to where they say it's going to go, it's worth it. I think they'll pay it."

Moreno told the Chicago Sun Times earlier in March, "I've got 47 signatures. I'm very confident we have the votes. We've been kicking this around for years. I'm not a very patient guy, but I've been patient on this. It's time to move."

If the ordinance passes, shoppers won't have a choice of paper or plastic.

The new Mariano's used to be a Dominick's. Mayor Rahm Emanuel's task force didn't want a food desert in Ukranian Village, so they made sure the grocery opened to serve the 1st Ward.

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