Unalaskans express overwhelming support for ban on plastic bags

The drafted ordinance would prohibit plastic bags at Unalaska’s grocery stores, including Safeway. (Berett Wilber/KUCB)

City Councilors and community members in Unalaska expressed support Tuesday night for an ordinance that would ban single-use plastic bags in Unalaska.

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As it stands, the proposed ordinance would put the burden on retailers. Starting Jan. 1, businesses would receive $100 fines for providing a customer with a disposable shopping bag. That does not include plastic bags used to package bulk items like fruit.

Vice Mayor Dennis Robinson first added the issue to a City Council agenda in April and said he fully supports the ban.

“I think we need to get away from plastics,” Robinson said. “If you have eaten a fish out of the sea in the past 10 years, you have nanoplastics in your blood from that fish. It’s a horrible thought.”

Nearly a dozen Unalaskans voiced their support for the bag ban. But some, like Abi Woodbridge, said it doesn’t go far enough.

“In the very near future, I highly recommend that straws be added, but also the industrial use of plastics on the docks,” Woodbridge said. “When people shrink wrap pallets, that stuff gets loose. It ends up in the bay.”

Earlier this month, Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban drinking straws. Now, food packaging in the city must be recyclable or compostable.

No one expressed opposition to Unalaska’s ban, and councilors said they may add other plastic items.

The push to reduce Unalaska’s dependence on plastic bags began at a community meeting in February.

Councilors will continue discussing the proposed ordinance at their next meeting July 24.

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Zoe Sobel is a reporter with Alaska's Energy Desk based in Unalaska. As a high schooler in Portland, Maine, Zoë Sobel got her first taste of public radio at NPR’s easternmost station. From there, she moved to Boston where she studied at Wellesley College and worked at WBUR, covering sports for Only A Game and the trial of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

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