Introducing the Plastic-Free Water Ordinance

Along with coalition partners, Illinois PIRG joined Alderman Scott Waguespack this week to introduce the Plastic-Free Water Ordinance in Chicago.

Along with coalition partners, Illinois PIRG joined Alderman Scott Waguespack this week to introduce the Plastic-Free Water Ordinance in Chicago. The ordinance would eliminate foam containers, and reduce the use of single-use plastics in food service in Chicago. More work will need to be done to address our plastic pollution problem, and Chicago’s poor recycling performance, but the ordinance is a critical, long-overdue, step in the right direction.

Every year, 22 million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes, mostly into Lake Michigan. Instead of biodegrading, plastic breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, “microplastics,” which have been found in fish guts, drinking water, and even beer. Plastic composes 80 percent of the litter on Great Lake shorelines, and 50 percent in the Chicago River.

Worldwide, the vast majority of plastic is not recycled. When it is, it degrades into lower quality plastic, meaning that over time all plastic will end up in landfills or incinerators, or as pollution in our oceans, waterways and communities. Because there are so many different types of plastic, some our local recycling system is set up to manage, others not, plastics contaminate our recycling stream, making it less likely we capture the value of other materials.

We can’t recycle our way out of our plastic pollution problem.

I went on to Chicago Tonight this week to discuss the ordinance.

We’re excited to be working with a great coalition to pass the ordinance, including the Illinois Environmental Council, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum, Chicago Recycling Coalition, Alliance for the Great Lakes and Friends of the Chicago River. Along with Alderman Waguespack, 18 other Alderman co-sponsored the ordinance upon introduction.


Abe Scarr

State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG

Abe Scarr is the director of Illinois PIRG and is the PIRG Energy and Utilities Program Director. He is a lead advocate in the Illinois Capitol and in the media for stronger consumer protections, utility accountability, and good government. In 2017, Abe led a coalition to pass legislation to implement automatic voter registration in Illinois, winning unanimous support in the Illinois General Assembly for the bill. He has co-authored multiple in-depth reports on Illinois utility policy and leads coalition campaigns to reform the Peoples Gas pipe replacement program. As PIRG's Energy and Utilities Program Director, Abe supports PIRG energy and utility campaigns across the country and leads the national Gas Stoves coalition. He also serves as a board member for the Consumer Federation of America. Abe lives in Chicago, where he enjoys biking, cooking and tending his garden.

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