Some state lawmakers want to further regulate products consumers use every day, including a statewide fee on plastic bags.

Several measures promoted by environmental groups and lawmakers are pending in Springfield.

Senate Bill 3677 and House Bill 5169 would ban Styrofoam containers from restaurants beginning in 2022. Another proposal, Senate Bill 3424 and House Bill 5552, would only allow single-use plastic straws only when requested by a customer. Another, Senate Bill 3423 and House Bill 3335, would impose a 10-cent fee on single-use plastic bags.

State Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, said the fee is meant to change behavior.

“Instead of calling it a fee, I like to call it a carryout bag incentive, because it really is incentivizing consumers to use reusable and recyclable bags,” Williams said. “I know when I go to the Jewel right by my house in Chicago you rarely see someone using a plastic bag and when they do it’s with a sense of guilt and shame.”

Supporters have said a similar fee in Chicago led to a decline in plastic-bag use among consumers.

State Rep. Allen Skillicorn called the bag fee “ridiculous,” and said there were other ways to address the problem.

“We already have laws on the books that prevent people from littering,” Skillicorn said. “You can get fined for littering right now. Enforce the law.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker proposed a similar measure last year, but it was abandoned after the state collected an unexpected tax windfall last April.

Illinois Retail Merchants Association President Rob Karr said even though retailers would get part of the bag fee, he said he was not in support of the proposed measure.

“I think the way it’s structured now – it’s a problem,” Karr said. “I think the way it was originally discussed was taking it and utilizing the funds to significantly expand the household hazardous waste collection statewide, relieving pressure on a variety of items, carpet, paint, you name it. So I think in its current form, it’s probably not where it needs to be.”

Karr said retailers also have concerns about the proposal to ban styrofoam containers at restaurants.

“We’re not a ‘just say no to anything,’ ” Karr said. “We’re willing to listen to something, but you have food safety issues to look at when you’re looking at dealing with viable alternatives to carrying food home or somewhere else, when storing food, so there are a lot of different layers to that discussion.”

SB3424 and HB5552 would also create a statewide container deposit similar to the one in Michigan, which has an extra fee that’s refundable.

Illinois Beverage Association Executive Director Rob Nash said the association supports more education to boost recycling rates.

“That’s the best way to change consumer behavior,” Nash said. “Imposing fees on hundreds of products consumers buy every day is not the most effective way to do that.”

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.