Proposal to ban plastic bags across Alaska heard by House committee

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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) — The House Committee on Community and Regional Affairs heard legislation Thursday that would ban plastic bags across Alaska if passed.

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, sponsored House Bill 81 which would require Alaska retailers to stop using single-use plastic bags by Jan. 1, 2021. Stores cited three times or more for continuing to use plastic bags would face fines up to $750 for each violation.

The bill carves out exceptions for meat, vegetables, bulk grains, bakery goods, and items that do not have other packaging.

Elise Sorum-Birk, a staff member in Josephson’s office, cited research which found that plastic bags are harmful to animals like caribou, moose, and marine life. She said that 17 communities across Alaska already have bag bans in place while the Denali Borough and Homer consider local bans of their own.

Josephson introduced similar legislation in 2018 that would have imposed a fee on single-use plastic bags, but that bill never made it out of committee for a vote of the full House.

A proposed fee for use is not part of Josephson’s new bill.

After public testimony in support of the ban, committee co-chair Rep. Harriet Drummond, D-Anchorage, set the bill aside for further committee review.

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