Palmer latest on list of Alaska cities banning plastic bag use

Thousands of plastic bags become loose at the Mat-Su Borough landfill, causing problems not only for the environment and wildlife, but also residents.
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - In a near-unanimous vote, Palmer City Council members votes Tuesday to prohibit future distribution of single-use, disposable plastic shopping bags.

The proposed ordinance stated that these bags "are a problem in the City of Palmer." Continuing, the proposal cited plastic bags as the largest problem at city-wide cleanups, and posed a real threat to wildlife.

"At any given time they can be seen tangled in trees, bushes and fences around town. Additionally, they pose a real danger to both terrestrial and aquatic wildlife and have been found in the digestive tracts of many local animals," the ordinance states.

And the City Council members agreed. In a four to one vote, members approved the ordinance, which would restrict the free distribution of plastic bags within city limits, and establish a fine schedule for those not complying. Edna DeVries, Mayor of Palmer, supported the measure.

According to minutes filed on the City of Palmer's municipal government website, it wasn't only the council members who agreed with the proposal either.

One letter after another was read aloud from concerned residents of Palmer, all of whom overwhelmingly supported the ban on plastic bags.

From private citizens looking to help beautify the landscape of the city, which they say is tarnished by windswept plastic, to prominent business owners saying they were willing to chip in money to help the ban go smoothly.

"We would be more than happy to donate, contribute funds etc, for a bulk buy of reusable bags between the City of Palmer and other local businesses," Alex Papasavas, owner of Turkey Red restaurant, said in a statement.

Ailis Vann, president of the the Palmer Chamber of Commerce, argued that restaurants and hotels depend on tourism in the summer for their bottom line, and that plastic hurting the scenery and livestock also hurt those industries eventually.

"It is important to keep our city as clean and beautiful as possible so that it mirrors the photos visitors see on the internet and in travel brochures," Vann wrote. "One only needs to look at the fences, ditches and trees to know that there is a problem with the lightweight flyaway bags that often pollute our city."

Palmer joins a long list of Alaska towns looking to cease plastic bag proliferation. In 2018 alone, Kodiak, Unalaska, and Wasilla have all approved measures to eliminate the use of disposable bags.

Similar measures have been introduced, but not approved, in Anchorage. Whether Alaska's largest city will eventually join the growing trend and adopt plastic bag legislation, remains to be seen.