Local assembly members don’t back plastic bag ban

Tuesday, September 18, 2018 - 12:43
  • A plastic bag is discarded at the side of C Street in Midtown on August 15, 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Chugiak-Eagle River’s delegation in the Anchorage Assembly thinks government has better things to do than banning plastic bags.

“I’m kind of the persuasion the major function of government is to protect our rights, not to change our conduct,” said Fred Dyson, who joined assemblywoman Amy Demboski as the lone votes against a ban on retail plastic bags that passed by the assembly at its Aug. 28 meeting.

Both local assembly members said in interviews Thursday that they’re in favor of protecting the environment — but neither thinks government stepping in to ban plastic bags is the way to do it.

“I think it just came down to Fred and I are both libertarians at heart,” Demboski said.

The plastic bag ban passed by a 9-2 vote. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Assemblyman Christopher Constant pushed for a version that outlaws plastic shopping bags of any thickness, with a 10-cent fee (up to 50 cents) for handing out paper bags.

During the Tuesday meeting, Constant said plastic bags are a scourge on the Anchorage landscape.

“The waste stream is voluminous and we have an opportunity to break the cycle,” Constant said.

The bag ban also had the support of Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz.

According to the ADN, Washington D.C.-based group, the American Progressive Bag Alliance sent representatives to the assembly to argue against the ban, and the group’s director, Matt Seaholm, said studies in Denmark and Quebec have shown plastic bags to actually be more environmentally friendly than cotton.

According to a study conducted by the Centre international de freerence sur le cycle de vie des produits, procedes et services (CIRAIG), reusable bags have a higher carbon footprint than disposable plastic bags and can actually be more harmful in the long run.

“The conventional plastic bag has several environmental and economic advantages,” reads the English language summary of the study. “Thin and light, its production requires little material and energy. It also avoids the production and purchase of garbage/bin liner bags since it benefits from a high reuse rate when reused for this purpose.”

The municipal-wide ban — which goes into effect March 1 — does not apply to small plastic bags used for bulk food, candy, meat, fruits and vegetables.

Demboski said she was also against imposing a fee for using paper bags, which she sees as burdensome to consumers already struggling in a down economy.

“I don’t think it’s the government’s job to coerce people to make retail decisions,” she said.

Dyson agreed. His philosophy is people should be making the right decisions about litter based on their own moral code, rather than through government edict.

“We ought to be doing all of these responsible things because we as individuals believe in them,” he said.

Demboski added that she thinks the assembly could be spending its time more wisely than legislating the use of plastic bags.

“Personally I think there’s a lot more things we need to be focused on, like law and order and public safety,” she said.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at [email protected]

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