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An Open Letter to Members of the Chicago City Council Committee on Health and Environmental Protection

An Open Letter to Members of the Chicago City Council Committee on Health and Environmental Protection

April 10, 2014

To Members of the Chicago Committee on Health and Environmental Protection,

An Open Letter to Members of the Chicago City Council Committee on Health and Environmental ProtectionOur company, Howard Packaging, LLC is a distributor of retail and food service packaging products based in Skokie, IL. As a distributor we purchase many types of retail bags including plastic, paper and reusable bags and distribute these products to retailers and restaurants throughout the U.S., Canada and Asia.

Before I continue, let me say that I am 100% in favor of banning thin plastic t-shirts bags from the City of Chicago. These bags make their way into our trees, rivers and lakes and are unmanageable in their ‘end of life’ stage.

However, the Chicago plastic bag ban ordinance as proposed by Alderman Moreno has unintended consequences which may not have been considered. Banning the use of plastic bags by mass merchandisers, chain drug stores and chain grocery stores will remove the overwhelming majority of plastic t-shirt bags from the solid waste and litter stream in the city.

But banning the use of all types of plastic bags by high end specialty, restaurant and ‘mom and pop’ retailers will place significant economic and operational burdens on this small, but important sector of the Chicago retail scene and will have a very minimal effect on reducing plastic t-shirt bag litter in the city.

As an example, many of these retailers purchase branded, high end plastic shopping bags made to their design specifications for $.20-$.25 each. If these specialty plastic bags are banned, they will need to replace them with recycled paper shopping bags that will cost $.30-$.35 each. While a $.10 increase in the cost of their retail bags may not seem like much, it’s a 40-50% increase in one of their significant operating costs.

As an aside, my company’s largest product line is recycled paper shopping bags. While we’re happy to sell this product to retailers who are forced to switch from plastic to paper, we’re ultimately more concerned with the health of specialty and independent retailers in Chicago .

Additionally, many of the plastic shopping and carry out bags used by this retail sector cannot be functionally replaced by recycled paper bags. Many of these plastic bags are extra strong(up to 4 mil) with reinforced handles and they are often oversized to accommodate larger specialty products that cannot fit in a recycled paper bag.

One final unintended consequence—almost all of the laminated, macramé handle, paper shopping bags used by retailers on Michigan Ave., Lincoln Park, Bucktown and other high end retail areas will be banned because they are not 100% recyclable and are not made from paper containing at least 40% post consumer content. While many of these bags can be recycled if the handles are removed, sourcing these bags with certified 40% post consumer content is difficult if not impossible.

I’d like to respectfully suggest to you that the following changes be made in the plastic bag ban ordinance:

  • Make restaurant carry out operations exempt from the ordinance. There are functional reasons (grease and liquid resistance) for restaurants to use plastic bags for their carry out orders.
  • Exempt all stores smaller than 5,000 square feet from the ordinance with no employee or dollar sales volume maximum. Do you really want to get your jewelry from Tiffany’s in a recycled paper bag?

I appreciate that you’ve taken the time to read this e-mail and hope you will feel free to call me if you have any questions or would like to discuss this issue further, 847-410-4360.

Ron Watson

Howard Packaging

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