Credit: Kerry Lannert

In 2007 a group of aldermen began talking about banning plastic bags, saying they were tired of getting nagged about bags flapping in trees and clogging sewer drains—not to mention ending up in the lake. Then Mayor Daley and retailers told them they were going to put stores out of business. Nobody likes being known as a jobs killer, so aldermen passed a weak law requiring that big stores offer bag recycling. It didn’t accomplish much—at most, 3 percent of bags were recovered. But First Ward alderman Proco Joe Moreno recycled the idea of a ban soon after he took office in 2010, stressing that billions of plastic bags are consumed each year in Chicago alone. “They’re a relic of the old economy,” he says. After more than three years of conversations, compromises, and delays, the version that emerged with Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s support only applies to “chain store organizations”—not restaurants or independent businesses. As a result, its opponents included not only the expected business groups and the editorial page of the Tribune—but also the Chicago Recycling Coalition and a number of council progressives. Still, Moreno argues that the law takes us another small step away from our “throwaway lifestyle.” He’s also optimistic that more environmentally friendly products will emerge to help with predicaments like what to do with Spot’s waste. There’s certainly time to figure something out—the compromise law doesn’t start going into effect until August 2015.