Assembly makes changes to plastic bag ban, clarifies what bags are allowed
On Tuesday evening, the Anchorage Assembly approved the amendment clarifying the definitions for plastic and reusable bags. The fees associated with paper bags are still in place.
The amendment states single-use plastic bags made of soft plastic are not reusable bags:
Plastic shopping bag means a single-use carryout bag made exclusively or primarily of soft plastic (including plastics marked or labeled as "biodegradable" or "compostable") that is designed to carry customer purchases from the retail seller's premises and is not a reusable bag.
Reusable bags are those that can be washed and used repeatedly:
Reusable bag means a bag that is designed and manufactured to withstand repeated use over time and is made from material that is machine washable or that can be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
Anchorage Assembly member Crystal Kennedy doesn’t want to repeal the plastic bag ban that went into effect Sept. 15 but said she does want to make changes to the new ordinance.
Kennedy is submitting an amendment to the ordinance that would clarify the definition of a reusable bag so merchants would have more certainty on what is allowed and what is not. The amendment would also define disposable plastic bags as less than 4 mils thick. Currently, nearly every plastic bag is banned without regard to thickness.
“The definition of plastic has been so broadly applied or so broadly defined that it’s really been hard for vendors to comply with,” Kennedy said. “And the same thing with reusable bags. The idea of reusable has been so narrowly defined that it’s really confusing people.”
Kennedy’s amendment would allow restaurants to use plastic bags for takeout orders. It would also get rid of the requirement that makes merchants charge a fee for customers who choose a paper bag. Kennedy said the fee is really meant to change human behavior, which she called insulting.
“I think the people of Anchorage are ready to do what needs to be done to get rid of those flimsy plastic bags and if you give them a little bit of time they’ll get used to the process and it will be a whole lot easier,” Kennedy said. “But the idea of fining them and trying to be punitive from the get-go is just kind of an insult.”
Kennedy said her amendments are meant to make the ordinance more fair and easier to enforce. The amended ordinance is up for a public hearing at Tuesday night’s assembly meeting.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Kennedy's amendment to allow bags made out of thicker plastic and allow restaurants to provide plastic bags for takeout orders passed.
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