CHICAGO (July 25, 12:30 p.m. ET) — As part of a school project, Abby Goldberg was attempting to get a plastic bag ban passed in her hometown of Grayslake, Ill.
The 13-year-old girl hadn't gotten very far — a trustee for the village told her he didn't know if an ordinance like that would fly in the village of 20,000 residents outside of Chicago — when she caught wind of another effort, one to ban plastic bag bans.
“I was kind of mad because my project had just started,” Goldberg said.
Illinois lawmakers have passed a bill aimed at increasing recycling of plastic bags and other plastic film. But a provision at the bottom of the bill would ban plastic bag bans and fees in every community except Chicago. Senate Bill 3442 has passed both chambers of the legislature and is in the hands of Gov. Pat Quinn.
Not wanting to be denied her plastic bag ban, Goldberg has taken her case directly to Quinn by delivering more than 150,000 signatures gathered from a Change.org campaign. Quinn personally accepted the petitions earlier this month.
Quinn's office did not respond to a request for comment on the bill, but he has until the end of August to either sign it or veto it.
“We want to do things that are right for the environment,” Quinn said after receiving the petitions from Goldberg, according to video from the event.
Goldberg said she's optimistic that Quinn will veto the bill.
“Everyone tells me that it's a good sign that he showed up,” she said. “But we'll see.”
The bill would force bag manufacturers to register with the state, pay a $500 registration fee and develop a plan to recycle the bags. According to the bill, at least 75 percent of the state's population would be required to live within 10 miles of a plastic bag recycling drop-off area by 2014. That number rises to 80 percent in 2015.
Also, the percentage of recycled plastic bags must increase by 12 percent between 2014 and 2015. If the recycling increase falls short, manufacturers would have to detail why it was not met.
The bill includes a sunset provision in 2017, but it could be extended if recycling of plastic bags increases due to the measure.
Republican Rep. Michael Tryon, the bill's main sponsor in the House, said in a statement that the state is poised to have “the first comprehensive recycling program in the nation for plastic bags.”
“The legislation protects consumers from locally imposed taxes on bags and preserves consumer choice and convenience by also prohibiting locally imposed plastic bag bans,” he said in the statement. “This legislation embodies responsible use and will divert, at a minimum, 426 additional tons of plastic from landfills to reuses in other plastic products.”
Dave Asselin, executive director of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, said recycling is the way to reduce plastic bag waste and said the bill would increase recycling.
“[Our] hope and belief is that it will be very successful,” he said, adding that it could be replicated in other states.
But Max Muller, program director for Environmental Illinois, called the bill a “fraud.”
“The recycling program described in the bill is extremely weak,” he said. “It's a great strategy for bag manufacturers. They feel like cities are going to start taking action to reduce the use of plastic bags and they want to stop that.”
He said the requirement of residents living near plastic bag drop-off locations is probably close to being met without the law and that the penalty for not meeting the recycling standards is small.
“They dolled it up as a statewide recycling bill,” Muller said. “It's a bit of a lie, I think.”
Rob Karr, senior vice president of government relations for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said the provision to bar bag bans and fees is what got the organization on board to support the measure.
“[Bag bans] are terribly inconvenient for customers and end up being far more expensive for retailers, who then charge more to customers,” he said. “Ultimately, it's about the customers.”
As for Goldberg, her project isn't done, no matter what the governor decides.
“If [the governor] does veto it, I'm going to try to get bags banned in Grayslake,” she said. “But if he signs it, I'm going to try to get stores and other students to sign a pledge not to use plastic bags.”