Petition to repeal plastic bag ban circulating around Anchorage

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A petition to repeal the prohibition of disposable plastic shopping bags is circulating around Anchorage.

The move comes after bans were successfully passed in Palmer and Wasilla.

David Nees, the man spearheading the petition, said he objects to the ban on principle and feels the voices of Anchorage residents were not heard in the Anchorage Assembly’s process of passing the referendum.

The co-sponsor of Municipal Referendum Petition 2018-1 to repeal the prohibition of plastic shopping bags, Nees also said he ran the recycling unit at Hanshew Middle School for 20 years.

“I’m not against recycling," he said. "It’s the process that I had an issue with.

“If you’re going to impact every citizen in Anchorage that goes out and shops, and you’re going to tell them that the only thing that you can use when you go shopping is what ‘we’ deem is okay, I’ve got a problem with that," he said, "if you don’t ask everybody.”

The Anchorage Assembly voted 9-2 in August to ban the use of plastic bags by retailers. Nees has been working quietly in the background on the repeal ever since.

He said the effort is a volunteer-driven, grassroots campaign that has already collected over a thousand signatures.

“I wouldn’t be running this petition if they had put it on the ballot for people to vote on in March,” Nees said. “But to change something that affects everybody’s grocery shopping in Anchorage without asking the grocery shoppers – probably not a great idea.”

However, the Anchorage Assembly is not the only entity to support the bag ban. The Mat-Su Zero Waste Coalition championed efforts to pass the plastic bag ban in Palmer and Wasilla. The chair of the coalition’s plastic bag committee, Carol Montgomery, also said it’s tough to make arguments in opposition to the ban.

“The evidence is overwhelmingly that they’re hazardous, and that we will benefit from just getting rid of them,” Montgomery said. “The overwhelming majority of people want these bags to be gone.”

The Mat-Su Zero Waste Coalition’s Facebook page features a video showing Dr. Bill Collins with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game removing plastic bags from the stomach of a moose. Montgomery said Alaskans care about wildlife and the impacts plastic bags have on native species.

“I think most people do care about our wildlife, and most people care about our salmon,” she said. “We want to keep our salmon clean and pure, and who wants to see a moose die from eating a plastic bag?”

Meanwhile, Nees said the grassroots petition to repeal the plastic bag ban has until mid-January to collect its goal of 10,000 signatures. He has a presentation scheduled with the Downtown Partnership on Dec. 5 to talk about the petition.

According to Anchorage Assemblyman Christopher Constant, the Economic Development Committee will review on Thursday an assembly proposition to move the bag ban from March 1 to September 15, 2019. He noted a number of retailers expressed concern that they wouldn't be able to get rid of their stock of plastic bags by then, and that they would just end up in the landfill anyways.

“Let’s give them one more busy summer season to work their way through their stock, and then be done,” Constant said.

That proposition is set to be discussed at the regular assembly meeting Dec. 4.

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