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Soldotna Council could tighten plastic bag ban

Alaska Public Media file photo

The Soldotna City Council will consider an ordinance at its Wednesday meeting that would tighten up restrictions on the city's single-use plastic bag ban.

The council passed the ban in 2018 to reduce plastic waste. Now that it's been in effect for a few years, ordinance cosponsor, Councilman Jordan Chilson, thinks it's not as effective as intended.

The original ordinance defined disposable plastic bags by thickness, as being under 2.25 mils. Many Soldotna stores switched to offering customers paper bags and encouraging bringing reusable bags. And some offered plastic bags that were just over the thickness requirement.

"But unfortunately what we found is it kind of backfired on us and when these thicker plastic bags were being distributed people just weren't using them in a reusable fashion, they just kept discarding them. And what we ended up with is really more plastic waste being generated, rather than less," Chilson said.

The proposed new ordinance removes the thickness criteria. Reusable would be defined as bags that are machine washable or that can be cleaned and disinfected regularly.

There are some exemptions. Plastic bags would still be allowed for produce, frozen goods, flowers, loose bolts and nails, bulk grains, and the like. Chilson says the new ordinance restructures the list of exemptions so they're easier to read and cleans up language to avoid misunderstandings or loopholes.

"Just a lot of common-sense exemptions. I mean, the idea is not to completely remove them where they are still needed but to really look at a reasonable reduction where it makes sense," he said.

Chilson says he's spoken with local vendors and doesn't expect concerns about the tighter rule. The ordinance sets an effective date of Jan. 1, 2025, to give stores plenty of time to use up any current stock of thicker plastic bags and prepare for the switch.

Chilson cites environmental concern as motivation for the bag ban. In the ordinance, he references a study released in January by the Alaska Environment Research and Policy Center that sampled 39 water sources around Southcentral Alaska and found microplastics in all of them.

"Kind of just additional confirmation that we're being affected by this, too. It's really not just something that you see in the news happening in some faraway place," he said.

Chilson says he doesn't plan on proposing further expansion to the plastics ban in Soldotna. But he would like to see neighboring municipalities take up the cause.

"If you take a trip to the landfill, you can see plastic bags hanging in the trees, blowing all over the place,” Chilson said. “Despite our efforts as a city to reduce their use, there's still just a tremendous amount of them that are being trucked in from across the peninsula and then being basically set free as they're being processed right next to our city."

The Soldotna City Council meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall on Birch Street. Meetings are also streamed on the city's website,

Jenny Neyman has been the general manager of KDLL since 2017. Before that she was a reporter and the Morning Edition host at KDLL.
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