• Store manager says ‘consumers will be left holding the bag.’
By Naomi Klouda
Consumers in the habit of grabbing bags from home to fill up at the grocery store won’t feel much of a change, but folks expecting their plastic bags in the months ahead could be disappointed.
The new City of Homer bag ordinance fell into place the first day of the new year. It outlaws plastic bags, the white ones with handles on them, at local retail shops and grocery stores. Plastic produce bags are not part of the ban.
In the meantime, any plastic retail bag left in the supply closets can be used up. This means customers won’t see the handy – and environmentally unfriendly – carriers disappear altogether.
Safeway is handing out reminders placed as memos to the public in their grocery bags. It tells them of the Jan. 1 changeover, contending they will want to remember their reusable bags when heading out to shop.
At Kachemak Wholesale, Manager Aaron Challans said they have a supply on hand to meet the needs at the present time and when those are gone, they’re gone.
“I don’t have a date in mind for when the present supply of bags will run out,” Challans said. “What’s happening here is it’s the consumer who will be left holding the bag.”
The reason why the plastic bag grew in popularity at stores across the country was because they replaced the heavy, more costly paper sacks. The difference was significant, said Challans, who has worked at grocery stores for 25 years, in a price at 6 cents for paper and 1 cent or less per plastic bag.
“I understand it from both sides. I’m a consumer like everyone else, but I also manage a business that uses plastic bags. If that’s what the community so wants, I am for it,” he added. “When the current supply runs out we will see what we can utilize after that.”
Homer people generally use cloth bags more and more anyway, said Save-U-More’s Hope Otero.
“I see a lot of people bring in their own bags. They’re already in the habit,” she said.
Save-U-More provides cardboard boxes and will run through the last of its plastic bags, but is also considering options for when those plastic bags are gone.
The Homer City Council voted in the bag ordinance Aug. 27 after a lengthy and loud public discussion at the city hall testimony table.
As the council debated what to put in the ordinance and what to leave out, enforcement became an issue. How would the city “police” stores that don’t comply? What should be the penalty for not following the ban?
The penalty for each violation is a fine of $50.00.
Homer Mayor Beth Wythe feels like there is more work to be done on the ordinance. She voted against it on the grounds that it was forcing people to make a change.
“I do not feel it was fully shaped. I recall that (Councilmembers Beau Burgess and Dave Lewis) expressed they both intended to bring more amendments before it went in on Jan. 1, and that didn’t happen,” Wythe said. “Hopefully we can get those updates in there so it will be easier to comply with.”
That could be handled through amendments to the ordinance, she said.
At this point, the ordinance states all bags need to be 2.25 millimeters thick. This is a weight class that distinguishes grocery bags from produce bags.
The ordinance spells out what bags are allowed:
“Bags used by customers inside stores to package bulk items such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains, candy, or small hardware items, such as nails and bolts; bags used to contain dampness or leaks from items such as frozen foods, meat or fish, flowers or potted plants; bags used to protect prepared foods or bakery goods; bags provided by pharmacists to contain prescription drugs; newspaper bags, laundry or dry cleaning bags; or bags sold for consumer use off the seller’s premises for such purposes as the collection and disposal of garbage, pet waste, or yard waste.”
Towns and states across the country began banning the lower weight bags from their areas because they choke wildlife and don’t break down in landfills. They also add to America’s demand for oil.
Coastal North Carolina and San Francisco were some of the first to institute a ban. In Alaska, the Prifloff Islands ban them and now Homer, which remains one of the few Alaska towns to do so.
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