More Alaska Cities Are Pursuing Local Plastic Bag Bans

Anchorage, Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska Shutterstock

 

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Anchorage could be next to implement restrictions.

Local officials in Alaska’s largest municipality are going to take some more time to consider a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags after the public debated a proposed ordinance Tuesday night during a city assembly meeting.

Should members of the Anchorage Assembly approve such a measure, they’d join their peers in 20 other Alaska cities and rural villages who have implement restrictions aimed at curbing the use of plastic bags in their communities, which can harm the environment.

As the Anchorage Daily News reported, Assembly members are still hashing out the details, including whether the ordinance should ban all single-use plastic bags or only ban bags of a certain thickness. Assembly members won’t take action on the proposal at least until their Aug. 28 meeting.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz supports a ban on single-use plastic shopping bags.

Bethel, Cordova, Kodiak, Palmer and Wasilla are among the Alaska localities that have their own ordinances.

Wasilla’s ordinance went into effect on July 1 and it hasn’t caused too much of a fuss, according to local media reports.

“Honestly because we put up the signs that the city sent out really early, it was really surprising how our customers were like, ‘okay that’s a change,’ and seemed to be, like, no big deal,” Wasilla Fred Meyer Assistant Store Manager Brenda Landers told the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman in early July. “Most of them are a little bit worried whether we were going to charge for bags or not, and we’re not.”

The details on Wasilla’s plastic-bag ordinance, according to the city:

What the requirements mean

  • Prohibits all establishments in City limits from providing single-use plastic disposable shopping bags for the purpose of carrying away goods from the point of sale.
  • Allows establishments to provide customers with any size recyclable paper or reusable carryout bags.
  • Allows establishments to provide carryout bags made of plastic 2.25 mil or thicker, with or without charge at their discretion.
  • Imposes a warning to the establishment for the first offense, second offense $100, and third offense $300.
  • Promotes reusable carryout bags as the best alternative to single-use plastic bags.

Exemptions:

  • Bags used in stores for bulk items or to protect vegetables, meat, frozen foods, and similar items are exempt.
  • Bags sold in packages containing multiple bags intended for use as garbage bags or to contain pet waste, or yard waste bags are exempt.

According to community radio KFSK station in the southeastern Alaska borough of Petersburg, local assembly there have also recently started discussions about whether to follow the lead of other local governments in the state that have restricted the use of single-use plastic bags.

Opponents of municipal plastic bag bans include plastics manufacturers and those who say such restrictions limit the freedoms of consumers and business owners.

Lawmakers in many states have pushed legislation in recent years to preempt local governments from enacting local plastic ban ordinances. In June, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that local governments in the Lone Star State don’t have much authority to ban the use of single-use plastic shopping bags in a case involving the city of Laredo.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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