A petition regarding legislation on plastic shopping bags has been hand-delivered to Gov. Pat Quinn. A petition drive started by 12-year-old Abby Goldberg of Grayslake began as a class project that looked at the impact plastic shopping bags have on the environment. During project research, Goldberg says she learned of legislation pending action by the governor that would mandate a statewide recycling program for plastic bags.
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While the bill has good intentions, Goldberg says it actually facilitates a cycle of plastic bag production with no end in sight. Plastic bags have a lifespan of hundreds of years and can be devastating to animals, in particular those in a marine environment. Goldberg says the bill would also stifle communities in making local decisions on banning plastic shopping bags. Champaign Mayor Don Gerard says the legislation would supersede home rule. “I think I speak on behalf of Democrats, Republicans and all those in between or on the outsides even, in that it should be our choice and I think that this bill really hamstrings us and it is … really an example of creating more big government at the hands of special interests,” Gerard said.
Quinn, who personally accepted the over 150,000 signatures urging him to veto the legislation, wouldn’t say what he would do with the bill, but said he was happy that Goldberg and others brought their concerns to his attention. Mark Denzler, vice president of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, says the plastics industry strongly supports the legislation. He says the first-of-its-kind, statewide plastics recycling program extends beyond plastic shopping bags, which Denzler says make up only 15 percent of plastic waste, while 85 percent of the plastic waste is from other plastics like dry cleaning bags, newspaper bags and food packaging. “California tried a program like this. They did not preempt local control, and so what happened is you had more than 50 percent of the population where their municipalities opted out, and so you didn’t have the mass program or the volume to take these plastic bags and plastic films and get them out of the landfills,” Denzler said.