Soldotna bans plastic bags

Starting Nov. 1, Soldotna will begin enforcing a ban on single use disposable plastic shopping bags within city limits.

Members of the Soldotna City Council passed an ordinance at their Wednesday meeting banning plastic bags, introduced by council members Lisa Parker and Linda Murphy, 4 to 1 after hearing public comment from local residents young and old, and business owners.

“I think this is a great idea to show visitors in our city that we believe we need to do this for our rivers, our community and for the sustainability for our fishing and the industry we try to have around here,” said council member Tyson Cox.

No one attempted to argue that plastic bags are a good thing to have in abundance, but some were worried about how it would affect them or if the ban would even make a difference.

Council member Paul Whitney, the sole “no” vote on the ordinance, didn’t see how the ban would be effective since Soldotna is the first, and only, municipality on the peninsula to enforce a ban. Homer enacted a similar ban in 2013, but it was repealed by a citizen initiative. Currently, Bethel and Hooper Bay have bans. Wasilla recently enacted a ban that will be effective July 1.

“I would like to see no plastic bags blowing around either, but just the city of Soldotna doing it isn’t going to solve the problem in the entire area,” Whitney said. “… It’s maybe a step in the right direction but until we can get all the other areas around the city to do the same thing, it’s not going to cure the ill. It’s still going to be there.”

Whitney introduced an amendment to the ordinance that would enact a ban in July 2019 only if the borough and the city of Kenai put a similar ban in place. The amendment was voted down.

Mike Sweeney, owner of Sweeney’s Clothing in Soldotna, said he has a year and a half worth of plastic bags that he ordered earlier this year and is concerned about how interactions with his customers will change.

“I believe that merchandise needs to go in a bag,” Sweeney said.

Murphy responded to Sweeney’s concerns, saying that she doesn’t think that retailers will see any ill effects from the ban. She also argued against Whitney’s point, saying that she doesn’t mind being the first place on the peninsula to enact a ban.

“Every change starts somewhere,” Murphy said. “…Everything starts in a small way and it grows from there.”

According to a memo attached to the ordinance, Soldotna’s change started with the Gganiłchit Dena’ina Youth Council and their screening earlier this year of the documentary “Bag It,” which discussed the negative effects of plastic on the environment. Several Youth Council members spoke in support of the ordinance at Wednesday’s meeting.

“I really appreciate all the young people who came out and spoke…” Murphy said. “Thank you so much for coming out and for speaking up for the environment. I agree with you. I have a 16-year-old granddaughter and I want her to grow up in a healthier world and I want her children to experience the same kind of lifestyle I grew up with and that won’t be possible if we continue to do what we’re doing by trashing our environment.”

The ban takes effect Nov. 1 of this year.

Reach Kat Sorensen at ksorensen@peninsulaclarion.com

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