Kodiak Considers Plastic Bag Banishment

Plastic shopping bag. Photo by Andrew Davidson / Flickr

Plastic shopping bag. Photo by Andrew Davidson / Flickr

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kodiak is looking into banning single-use plastic bags.

If it does, it’ll follow communities like Bethel, Cordova, and Hooper Bay that have all enforced city-wide bans, none of which include a per-bag fee.

Fairbanks tried and failed in 2009 to charge a 5 cent fee. Some communities in the Lower 48 have been more successful. A few, like Aspen, Colorado, also charge for paper bags.

Last Monday, the Solid Waste Advisory Board talked about how they might introduce the idea of a bag ban to the community.

Kodiak also entertained the idea of a bag ban a few years ago, although it didn’t go anywhere.

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SWAB member Jeff Stewart had a guess for how some people might react to having to pay a fee.

“I think what you have to realize is you have your costs and, when I go to Safeway, if it costs me 5 cents a bag, that money comes out of my pocket, and I’m concerned with what comes out of my pocket and, as far as what comes out of your pocket, well, that’s your problem, not mine.”

SWAB agreed on suggesting a ban without financial repercussions – other than the ones that already exist.

They talked about how the use of plastic bags costs the community.

In addition to the expense of recycling bags and shipping them off island, some of that money is wrapped up in staff time and effort.

Borough Director of Engineering and Facilities Bob Tucker said the borough conducts an annual DEC cleanup around the landfill as part of its permitting requirements. He said their budget for that depends on how much trash there is and how long the cleanup takes them.

“It is probably [closer] to 60 or 65 percent are bags are bags that we chase down, try to drag out of trees and the brush and everywhere else you could possibly think of.”

He said, this year, the Department of Fish and Game has also requested they clean up the stream behind the landfill.

Once in a river or any body of water, plastic doesn’t go anywhere. Fish and other animals like seabirds and whales consume it, and that’s where it stays since it’s not digestible. It also fails to fully decompose, which means it ends up in the ocean and becomes a food source, washes up on beaches, or just stays there in smaller and smaller pieces.

More and more communities are looking at plastic bags as an avoidable product. Especially, as SWAB chairman Nick Szabo said, since reusable bags are so readily available.

“I know one argument that has been brought up about, well, it discriminates against the lower income people because they have to buy the reusable bags, but nowadays – I must have a dozen in the back of my truck. I mean ComFish gives ‘em away, everybody gives away these bags. So, I don’t really put much stock in that argument.”

But it’s an argument SWAB will bring up again. They’re forming a subcommittee to work out the project details.

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