Champaign officials look at reining in use of plastic bags

Champaign officials look at reining in use of plastic bags

CHAMPAIGN — Officials are beginning to explore ways to bag "urban tumbleweed" by making plastic bags a thing of the past and maybe help the environment at the same time.

Nothing formal has been proposed, but Champaign administrators are researching ways to cut down on the city's plastic-bag use. Administrative services manager Elizabeth Hannan said Tuesday that an outright ban or a small fee on plastic bags might be the way to do that.

All nine city council members signed off on a petition to get talks going. That does not mean each would support it, but it is enough to bring it before the council for a straw poll in March.

"Obviously, they're concerned and we're concerned that there's a litter problem in the city, and one of the chief contributors is plastic bags," Hannan said.

It is a pretty common issue. Hannan said Americans use more than 100 billion plastic bags annually, and in urban areas, they often do not find their way into a garbage can or recycling bin.

"They're very lightweight, and if you've ever seen one of them float on the air, they're very aerodynamic," she said.

Even if they do make it in to a garbage can, that only means they will end up taking up space in a landfill, Hannan said.

Plastic-bag bans have been springing up throughout the United States in recent years, and some have been met with scrutiny. The Seattle City Council approved a 20-cent fee on plastic bags in 2008, and voters repealed it in 2009, according to news reports.

The city of Seattle tried again in December, when it issued a ban on plastic bags and a 5-cent fee on paper bags. That fee would go back to the retailer to pay for the cost of stocking paper bags. The ban there goes into effect in July.

Hannan said the city of Champaign is now looking for a way to cut back on plastic.

"The idea would be to discourage people from using that option," Hannan said.

A plastic-bag ban would bar businesses from offering that option to customers.

As another option, administrators are looking at requiring businesses to charge a small fee every time a customer takes a plastic bag — maybe something like 5 cents per bag, Hannan suggested.

Whether that revenue would go to the city or the business is up for discussion, but Hannan said the city is not exploring the issue in hopes of creating a new revenue stream.

Champaign resident Adriana Cuervo said it would not be an inconvenience for her — she already takes reusable bags to the store.

"I think they're easier," Cuervo said. "They're easier to handle, they're sturdier and you can carry more things."

The environmental benefit is a bonus, she said.

"I think that would be great," Cuervo said. "Any step that we can take to keep things out of the landfill I think is good."

What do you think?

The city is asking residents to give feedback on plastic bags by taking an online survey at It closes at 11:59 p.m. Feb. 26.

The Champaign City Council is scheduled to discuss the information at 7 p.m. March 13 in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.

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koffeeking wrote on February 08, 2012 at 1:02 pm

Just take a drive to the north side of Champaign on Interstate Drive and look at the fields surrounding Walmart. Then you will see why we need to cut back on plastic bag usage. Also check out the documentary Bag It at

ronaldo wrote on February 08, 2012 at 2:02 pm

That wasteland of bags has NOTHING to do with the general use of plastic bags.  It has EVERYTHING to do with the idiots who buy one or two items, remove them from the bag in the parking lot and drop the bag before they even get to their car.  It's about littering, not the use of bags in general.  With that logic, we should ban selling sodas in ANY container as you see their glass & plastic containers everywhere.

Easily the vast majority of the community disposes of the bags or recycles them, and many of those are biodegradable.  You're barking up the wrong tree - address the issue of littering, not the use of plastic bags. 

ClearVision wrote on February 09, 2012 at 9:02 am

Agreed. It's about littering, period. Most of the litter I see around town is cigarette butts and cans and bottles from soda and cheap beer. Why not ban cigarettes, soda, and cheap beer? Ditto any containers from fast food restaurants.

I use plastic grocery bags, and either re-use or recycle them. The ones I reuse (for garbage can liners) would have to be replaced by even thicker, less biodegradable plastic garbage bags. I would certainly find it unfair to pay an extra fee (we're already paying for bags in grocery store overhead) when I return most of the bags to the store for recycling. Unless, of course, that fee gets refunded when I return the bags.

asparagus wrote on February 08, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I would actually like to see a 25% tax on all grocery purchases.  We would use that money to hire city nutrionists to oversee the checkout lanes in local grocery stores.  These nutritionists would monitor the quality of food purchased (in accordance with the healthy food pyramid) and would issue citations for purchases that may threaten one's long term health. 

The city could fund a study with the Food Science faculty at U of I.  Those folks are really smart and have the required expertise to help solve this problem.

Let's get serious about the obesity epidemic by taking action. Let's do it for the children.

Also, we should start putting a "gas" tax on foods that are sold but not produced locally.  A 1% tax per one hundred miles distant from the local area would be ideal.  This would be a tremendous boon to the environment, and it would make everyone feel really good too.


killerut wrote on February 08, 2012 at 2:02 pm

More taxes?  Lemme guess.  You voted for Obama.  "Let's do it for the children" "feel really good too". 


Ugh!  Take your ideas elsewhere.

adamb2000 wrote on February 08, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I take it you'd enjoy paying $20 for a banana or $10 for an orange then, right? $50 for a pineapple? You DO realize that some foods can't be produced locally, right?

urbana1234 wrote on February 08, 2012 at 3:02 pm


You are funny. I can make up my own mind thank you very much. I know what is healthy unlike the USDA Food Pyramid or MyPlate as it is called now.

I shop at Aldi and Save a Lot, they don't have bags unless you pay for the reusable kind or find an left over box that they used for packaging.

Ryder wrote on February 09, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Well, that's at least 3 commenters that didn't get the joke.

Pardon Me wrote on February 09, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Funny!  Guess some people just don't get sarcasm!

Are you kidding wrote on February 08, 2012 at 3:02 pm

This is NOT a Walmart or Meijer problem.

It's a HUMAN problem.

Humans are the ones discarding the bags.

It's call LITTERING!!!!

If it's not plastic bags, then it will be paper bags the way it was 30 years and more ago.

Before Walmart relocated to North Prospect, Meijer was blamed for all the litter blowing through the farm fields.

Calm down and get a grip. Good Grief!!!

Back to the good old days of "Keep America Beautiful".

Littering is agaist the law, but where's the law when you need it?!

urbana1234 wrote on February 08, 2012 at 3:02 pm

edit:reply to comment above, stupid login!

mcdigsk2 wrote on February 08, 2012 at 3:02 pm

2 proposed solutions to alleviate problem....

1)  Charge 3 cents per plastic bag, especially at WalMart and Meijer. The caring people of C-U will value their plastic bags more and so inadvertently help protect the town they live in from further pollution

2)  Also, as someone who has performed 200 hours of community service as part of sentencing, I would have gladly picked up plastic bags for 8 hours on a Saturday if the opportunity was given to me.  Why doesn't Champaign City Council and the probation department make this happen?




harleyowner07 wrote on February 08, 2012 at 3:02 pm

This is very much a human problem. People just need to stop littering. All these stores offer trash cans to help avoid this but people still don't use them. As for the issue of going into a landfill these bags are recyclable and reusable.

I think the only reason a fee should be placed on the bags is if the money goes back to the city to develope and maintain a litter collection program. If the city if collecting 5 cents a bag then they can afford to pay people to be out picking up the litter on North Prospect. Part of the money should also be used for education about littering and recycling of the bags.


whatsinitforme wrote on February 08, 2012 at 4:02 pm

This is a non-issue. Much like the smoking ban, a vocal few want to practice proctology on the ordinary citizen. In addition, the reusable bags seem like a way for criminals to shoplift, increasing the price we pay to compensate for shrinkage.

mcdigsk2 wrote on February 08, 2012 at 4:02 pm

This *is* an issue....perhaps not for you, but certainly for the residents who live in neighborhoods close to commercial areas such as North Prospect.

45solte wrote on February 08, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Let's ban the sale of  those wasteful non-biodegradable Keurig cups first and work our way down to more basic things like plastic bags.

johnny wrote on February 08, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Seattle already is a laughingstock for this.  The referendum failed, so the City Council forced it through anyway.  Why would Champaign want to be number two?  Race to the bottom with Urbana?

koffeeking wrote on February 08, 2012 at 6:02 pm

Here are some facts about the downsides of using plastic bags. It goes much deeper than just getting people to stop littering.

Mike wrote on February 08, 2012 at 7:02 pm

How about we go back to the days of letting customers bag their own groceries. There are times when I'll go to the store and buy 6 things and end up with 7 or 8 plastic bags because of separating things and double-bagging others---I could probably have done it just as well with one or two bags.

Cessibone wrote on February 08, 2012 at 7:02 pm

My folks live up in Toronto and just within the last few years, they've implemented a 5cent bag fee for all stores.  Everytime you make a purchase, they ask if you'd like a bag...and charge you accordingly.  Lots of people bring their own cloth bags or recycle old plastic/paper bags.  It doesn't make it a perfect world...the city gets a bunch of complaints but at least the city is taking a step towards reducing waste and plastic.  At first, i was upset about the 5cent fee (it's five cents, give me a break) but after a while, those nickels add up and eventually, you just make sure to have cloth bags with you...  It makes a difference.

45solte wrote on February 08, 2012 at 9:02 pm

'Grocery shoppers must use their cloth bags 131 times to see the environmental benefits of using reuseables that environmentalists tout.' 

This would presumably involve some environmental bads like washing the thing with soap on occasion.

Deetlebug wrote on February 09, 2012 at 1:02 am

But where will I put my cat poop? This is a serious question. If any of you have any suggestions, please let me know!

billbtri5 wrote on February 09, 2012 at 7:02 am

very  simple solution here, just declare everything against the law and get it over with...

ronaldo wrote on February 09, 2012 at 11:02 am

I see the sarcasm, but a better, very real idea is to just REMEMBER who comes up with this bunk and vote them out at the next election.  I don't want my tax dollars wasted on even so much as discussing this sort of bullhockey.

Reader2 wrote on February 09, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Deetle, not to give free advertising to anyone, but Menards currently (and regularly) has free-after-rebate (must still pay sales tax though) GO-GREEN catbox liners and doggie-doo bags (small but just as handy for kitty-doo), which supposedly leave no toxins and breakdown after 2 years (probably curdled by the super-toxic contents)!

Check their current 4-page Stock-Up flyer (back page):  Limit 10 free boxes of 50 small dog-bags -- ought to last you and Fluffy a little while after the Plastic Patrol takes over.  And since customers bag their own purchases there, perhaps you could bag each box separately!

Also, in the meantime, perhaps you could go bag-collecting out near Wal-Mart and fences along the interstate, etc.  ;)



OwlCreekObserver wrote on March 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I have several questions that the Champaign City Council may wish to ponder:

  • If they levy a five cent cost per bag, does that extra money go to the merchant?
  • Will the Council also direct grocers to reduce their prices to compensate for the bags they no longer "give" out?
  • Will the ban extend to other merchants besides grocery stores, such as book stores, liquor stores, clothing stores, electronics stores, etc?  And what about the large plastic (and paper) shopping bags that are given out at those places?
  • What about all the paper bags and wrappers generated by fast food places?
  • What about plastic and paper drink containers at those food places?
  • What about plastic trash bags themselves?
  • Since plastic bags actually have a much smaller environmental footprint than paper bags, will the Council also ban paper bags?
  • What about the sanitary issues involved with using the same cloth bags for carrying such things as meat and produce?
  • If you plan to levy a charge on each bag, could the bags be returned for a refund?  Why or why not, and who pays for the staffing required to do that?
  • As I recall, plastic bags were introduced at least in part because environmentalists were upset with the harvesting of commercial forests (which are quite renewable) for the manufacture of paper bags.  Now they're upset because plastic bags are allegedly environmentally unfriendly.  What does the Council plan to ban next?

The point of all this silliness is that because of a few thoughtless, mentally challenged boobs who care nothing about their neighbors, the local government wants to punish all Champaign residents by eliminating an actual convenience.