UNALASKA, Alaska — Unalaska residents have rallied to urge city officials to ban single-use plastic bags like some other Alaska communities have done.
About 25 residents in favor of a ban met last week to devise how best to make their case to the city, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported Tuesday.
In 2013, a petition asking the city council to “eliminate the use of plastic bags by Unalaska stores” circulated around the community but did not come to fruition.
The bags have been banned in Kodiak, Wasilla, Bethel, Cordova and Hooper Bay. Homer briefly prohibited the bags, but the ban was overturned by voters.
Resident Mary Heimes said eliminating the bags should be a no-brainer for the ocean community.
“You know we pull a lot of money out of the ocean in this community and we have a social responsibility to take care of the environment,” Heimes said.
But others, such as Safeway store manager Abe Palmer, worry the ban could negatively impact residents.
“I’m all for the environment,” Palmer said. “I’m not against the plastic bag ban, but when you look at the overall picture the people who are going to suffer are the people in the community.”
Palmer said he thinks education and re-establishing the recycling program could have the same effect as a plastic bag ban. He also said paper bags are five times more expensive than plastic bags.
“All those costs would not be absorbed by the company,” Palmer said. “It would be absorbed going out into the customers’ market.”
Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson said whether it actually is more expensive to eliminate single-use bags is a matter of weighing immediate versus future costs.
“It may be expensive to me to get rid of my garbage, so I’m going to pass that on to future generations,” Robinson said. “That’s what we’re faced with on this island. (Our) landfill is filling up a bit quicker than they expected.”
Robinson said he has asked for the issue to be scheduled for discussion at a city council meeting next month.