Recycling proposal up for consideration

The city's energy and environment committee will consider an ordinance today requiring many Chicago retailers to recycle plastic shopping bags or face stiff fines.

After months of negotiations between aldermen and environmental and industry groups, it looks like the city has produced a compromise measure with good prospects for passage, says Donal Quinlan, a spokesman for Alderman Ed Burke.

Today's ordinance is likely to differ from the one originally proposed by Burke (D-14) and Ald. Margaret Laurino (D-39) in February.

According to Tanya Triche, an attorney with the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which has been involved in the negotiations, the ordinance will probably apply to stores with 25 percent of gross sales from prescription and non-prescription medicine.

This means that grocery stores and pharmacies would be affected, as would convenience stores. But restaurants, as well as many department stores and big-box retailers, would not be covered by the ordinance.

The original ordinance, modeled after a law in New York, applied to retailers with over 5,000 square feet of space and to chain stores with five or more outlets.

The ordinance likely to be voted on today would require businesses that use plastic bags to provide a recycling bin for them. Those businesses would be responsible for recycling the bags they collect.

Violators would be fined up to $300 per day.

Triche says that IRMA is still concerned about the challenges facing mom and pop stores, which may not have resources to recycle.

"We're still trying to figure out how to help the smaller stores - which have challenges with storing and weighing the bags - comply with the ordinance," says Triche. "We don't quite have the answer to that yet."

The hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for 11 a.m. in Room 201 of City Hall.