Rep. Ann Williams, D-Chicago, and Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, each have bills that would create a statewide container deposit program and would require full-service and fast food restaurants to provide single-use plastics only at the consumers’ request. “If you go to a restaurant and you’re automatically given a straw and you never use it, the restaurant throws it away,” Williams said. “But if you go to a restaurant and you don’t need a straw, you don’t get one. If you want one, you can request one. Where’s the harm or inconvenience there?”
Rob Karr, Illinois Retail Merchants Association president, said most of the legislation doesn’t address the bigger issues and it nickels and dimes consumers. He also said it’s an inconvenience for consumers and raises cost issues for restaurants. “What do you do at a drive-through situation? Families on vacation, they go through, they don’t ask for their silverware. I have a family of six, go two miles down the road, what do you do, go back? At that point I’m not too happy,” Karr said.
Williams, however, said these are simple ways to reduce the number of waste on the side of the road, in rivers and in people. The average person ingests about five grams of plastic per week, or the amount in a credit card, according to a press release. “The solutions that we’re proposing are not going to require big, sweeping lifestyle changes for people,” Williams said.
But Karr questions what kind of impact the little changes will actually have. “Straws are such a small part of the waste stream, I mean people throw out more contacts (lenses) and other things than they do straws,” Karr said.
He said IRMA proposed legislation six years ago that addressed plastic wrap, which he said is 80 percent of the waste stream, but it never passed. He also noted that IRMA has proposed two plastic bag taxes that were turned down. One would have taxed manufacturers for the take back of bags and plastic wrap instead of consumers. Another would have expanded the definition of household hazardous waste and opened up take back sites in every county for things like mattresses and paint.