Paper, not plastic: Wasilla City Council votes to ban disposable bags.
On Tuesday morning, wind gusts in the Mat-Su Valley hit about 50 miles an hour, strong enough to shut down the Central Landfill.
Carol Montgomery said those kinds of wind speeds highlight the area’s problem with plastic pollution.
"These bags catch every bit of wind, they fly out of the landfill, they fly out of dumpsters,” Montgomery explained. "That’s why they make such a mess out here and everyone is really disgusted with it and wants to clean up our valley.”
As the chair of the Mat-Su Zero Waste Coalition’s Plastic Bag Committee, Montgomery is thrilled the Wasilla City Council voted to ban the disposable, single-use bags at its meeting on Monday.
Montgomery said it’s an issue her group has been working on for more than a year. They were inspired by work being done at the Mat-Su Experiment Farm where researchers are able to monitor the contents of a moose’s stomach and found plastic was prevalent.
"They’re killing local caribou and moose eat them. We’re not sure how many moose are dying from them. They get into our waterways and get into our salmon,” she said.
Many bags that don’t go to the landfill end up being recycled.
"All of ours go to a company called Trex that makes wood out of them,” said Mollie Boyer with Valley Community Recycling for Solutions.
Every year the center takes in about 44,000 pounds of the flimsy film. The bags are smashed into bales that weigh about 1,600 pounds apiece.
Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle said the bag ban was a hot-button issue that brought out quite a few people to the council’s two public hearings.
"The only meetings I saw more people show up at was marijuana and ATVs,” Cottle said.
He said a majority of the people were supportive of the initiative. Monday's meeting had 16 people testify in favor, seven against; out of the 48 written comments the clerk’s office received, 47 were in support.
“Is it going to solve the environmental problems? No. Is it a statement? Yes,” Cottle said.
The ban applies to all stores within Wasilla City Limits. Paper bags will still be available but people are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags. The initiative is aimed at reducing the trash around town which could mean a better use of the city’s resources.
"We pay over $25,000 a year out of city money just to do clean up along the highway, and if there are less (sic) bags to clean up along the highway, I think that’s great. We can use that patrol somewhere else,” Cottle said.
Advocates said it might take some time for people to get used to bringing their own bags but they hope shoppers will get on board with the ban.
"It’s going to be a cleaner city, I think there’s going to be a lot more civic pride,” Montgomery said. “It will just make a cleaner Valley for everyone."
The ban goes into effect July 1.
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