The Anchorage Assembly approved a law prohibiting the distribution of plastic shopping bags by retailers on Aug. 28. It is the stricter version of two drafts introduced in July, also banning retailers from providing thicker plastic bans for a fee. The ordinance will take effect on March 1, 2019.
The ban is a response to concerns about increasing plastic landfill in the city. Anchorage is following a national trend with the law. The city of Seattle already banned plastic bags six years ago. California imposed a statewide ban effective in 2016.
Kroger, the retail company that owns Fred Meyer, announced their decision to transition to reusable bags on Aug. 23.
“We are… transitioning to reusable bags in our stores by 2025,” Rodney McMullen, the company’s CEO, said in a press release. “It’s a bold move that will better protect our planet for future generations.”
Other Alaskan cities, such as Palmer and Wasilla, adopted more lenient plastic bag bans earlier in 2018. Retailers are still allowed to sell thicker plastic bags for small fees under those laws.
Anchorage retail sellers, however, will only be allowed to provide paper bags for a fee between 10 cents and 50 cents. Reusable bags made of woven material may be distributed without restriction.
There are certain exceptions to the ban. Customers will still be allowed to use plastic bags provided inside stores to contain a product that does not have other packaging. This includes bulk grains, nuts, meat, produce and some other goods.
The decision of the assembly was close – five voted against the ban, and six voted in favor of the ban. A motion for reconsideration of the ordinance has been moved and will be discussed in the assembly’s next meeting on Sept. 11.
UAA student Yvonne Jeschke is supportive of the stricter ban in Anchorage.
“I was so happy when I heard about the plastic bag ban in Anchorage. Other countries and states already took initiative toward a cleaner and more eco-friendly lifestyle of their citizens, so it was about time to catch up,” the physical education major said.
Jeschke is not concerned about any impact the ban might have on her. She has already been using reusable bags or backpacks to carry her groceries. The only challenge is getting used to this procedure, Jeschke said.
“I can see how some people find it challenging at first, but once you start changing your habits and just bring your own bag, it won’t cause any trouble anymore,” she said.
Violators of the bill will face a fine of $250 per violation after the second offense. Any subsequent offense will be penalized with $500 per violation.
Like other Anchorage businesses, the UAA bookstore will be affected by the law as well. The bookstore has not decided on possible alternatives for the plastic bags yet, Isabel Mead, assistant technology buyer, explained.
“Now, we need to look into the logistics of making the change we can meet the appointed deadline,” Mead said. “We realize that books can be heavy and we won’t make a decision lightly when it comes to what alternatives to offer. But we do need to abide by the new regulation.”
The most obvious solution for many students might be to carry their purchases in their school backpacks. However, the bookstore does not allow backpacks in the textbook area in the back of the store.
“The main reason for this restriction is loss prevention, unfortunately,” Mead said. “Because of this, we do offer shopping baskets, a couple of shelves inside the store to leave the backpack while in the textbook area and free lockers outside the store.”
The bookstore’s policy allows backpacks during checkout and in all other areas, and plans for plastic bag alternatives will be finalized by the end of September.