WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - The City of Wasilla outlawed the commercial use of disposable plastic shopping bags following an ordinance that passed in January.
As of Sunday July 1, businesses across the city are required to start using reusable or recyclable bags.
The Wasilla Fred Meyer’s offered brown paper bags for shoppers while Target had a free reusable bag made from “post-consumer recycled material” that is designed to be used at least 125 times.
For smaller businesses the shift was a little more difficult. Iveria Lorenz, the managing director of J and J Food Market, said it cost around half a cent per plastic bag while a paper bag was seven cents.
Despite the price rise, Lorenz says the small grocer supported the shift to ban plastic bags believing that it would serve to educate people and encourage environmentalism.
The cost would also not be passed onto customers, said Lorenz.
The majority of shoppers Channel 2 spoke with on Sunday were untroubled or in favor on the ban.
“I think it’s great, great for the environment,” said Andrea Morrow, a shopper at Fred Meyer’s. “I forgot this was the first day, I have tons of reusable bags at home. I think this will prod me in the right direction to remember them next time.”
Some shoppers were frustrated plastic bags would no longer be available, particularly to be used in small trash cans.
“I use them for our daughter as a diaper bag, we put her diapers in there and roll them up and throw them in the trash,” said Karissa Kanagin, a shopper at Target.
The City of Wasilla says there are some exemptions to the ban:
Bags used in stores for bulk items or to protect vegetables, meat, frozen foods, and similar items are exempt.
The exemptions are few and far between and businesses risk fines if they break the rules. A first offense earns a warning, a second offense earns a fine of $100 and a third offense nets a fine of $300.
“It’s hard to make an argument not to get rid of these bags, they’re a nuisance and a public health hazard,” said Carol Montgomery, the chair of the Mat-Su Zero Waste Coalition plastic bag committee.
The organization spearheaded the banning of plastic bags across the Valley after a third grader went on a field trip to the Matanuska Experiment Farm & Extension Center and learned that bags could get into the digestive tracts of caribou and moose.
The boy told members of the Mat-Su Zero Waste Coalition who then traveled to Mat-Su community councils, advocating for the ban.
After their recent success, Montgomery says the organization is now advocating for any legislation that imposes a statewide ban of plastic bags.
The City of Palmer is set to implement a similar ban starting Jan. 1 2019 after plastic bags were banned in the Alaskan cities and towns of Hooper Bay, Cordova and Bethel.