Habits change month after plastic bag ban

A month after banning single-use plastic bags in Soldotna, consumers and retailers throughout the community have adjusted to the change.

“In my personal interactions with people, trying to gauge the reaction when I’m out and about, I haven’t sensed that anyone was in crisis or having a tough time figuring it out,” said Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen. “It’s going okay. We’ll continue to be flexible, keep track of questions and address them as they come up.”

Under the ordinance, stores may offer paper bags for free or for an additional price at the discretion of the business.

Not all plastic bags are banned, though. Bags used to purchase bulk or produce items, contain dampness or leaks, like with frozen foods or flowers, or used to protect prepared and baked goods are still allowed. Also newspaper, laundry, dry cleaning bags and garbage bags are still allowed.

“We got a lot of questions that first week pertaining to very specific questions,” Queen said. “Questions like ‘The ordinance says this, does my bag fit that description?’”

Queen said that several restaurants expressed concerns about their take-out containers.

“They were trying to see if some plastics were still allowed in certain instances where food can spill and drip,” Queen said. “But I know a lot of restaurants are just going to stick with paper bags.”

In the days leading up to the ban’s enactment, the city handed out reusable plastic bags at key locations such as Safeway and Fred Meyer.

“I’ve seen a lot of the reusable bags around town, which makes me glad that they got into people’s hands. We were really glad the stores were helping with that,” Queen said. “I’ve seen more people carrying their own bags. I think people are changing their behavior and working it out.”

Soldotna is joining several Alaskan communities in banning single-use plastic bags, including Wasilla, Palmer, Cordova and Bethel.

Seward recently passed legislation to ban plastic bags and Homer will place the bag ban question on the ballot in Oct. 2019.