Plastic bag ban

Metro Creative Graphics 

Assemblyman Andrew Gray wants the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly to back a bill in the Alaska Legislature aimed at curbing the use of plastic shopping bags statewide.

At least 17 communities around Alaska have adopted bans on disposable plastic grocery bags. Three states — California, Hawaii and recently New York — also ban them. The Borough Assembly approved a five-cent plastic bag tax in 2009 but rescinded it a month later.

Gray is asking the assembly to support House Bill 81 by Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage. A resolution by Gray is scheduled for a vote on Thursday.

House Bill 81 has had two hearings before the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee with a third hearing also scheduled for Thursday, according to an aide to Josephson.

The legislation prohibits stores from providing disposable plastic shopping bags for most purchases with a list of exemptions including bags carrying flowers, prescription drugs and bulk products with no other packaging such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and bakery goods.

Retail stores with less than $250,000 in gross sales would be exempt.

"The use of disposable plastic shopping bags in the state of Alaska burdens the environment, endangers wildlife, and has been shown to be harmful to bodies of water and problematic for solid waste managers," Gray's resolution states. "Switching from free disposable plastic shopping bags to reusable shopping bags is a valid alternative that effectively reduces plastic bag usage and promotes environmental stewardship and sustainability."

Attempts to reach the assemblyman on Monday were unsuccessful.

Galena, Arctic Village, Soldotna, Wasilla, Fort Yukon, Kodiak and Hooper Bay are some of the Alaska communities that have banned disposable plastic shopping bags.

A ban in Anchorage is set to take effect in September, according to Kristin DeSmith, communications director for the municipality of Anchorage.

Josephson's bill proposes to fine retailers who violate the ban $250 for the first violation, $500 for a second violation and $750 for each subsequent violation within one year.

Last year, Kroger Co. announced it will remove single-use plastic bags from its stores in an effort to transition to reusable bags by 2025. Kroger Co. owns Fred Meyer, Inc.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7587. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.