Change has to start somewhere, and in the case of plastic grocery bags on the central Kenai Peninsula, it’s going to start in Soldotna.
The Soldotna City Council on Wednesday adopted an ordinance to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. The measure goes into effect Nov. 1.
We applaud the effort to improve the environment here on the central peninsula, and the city council’s willingness to act locally while thinking globally.
As noted in a supporting memo from council member Lisa Parker and Vice Mayor Linda Murphy, plastic shopping bags are a prime source of litter around the community. Beyond that, plastic bags pose a significant hazard to wildlife, and do not easily degrade.
In their ordinance, Murphy and Parker noted that the best way to cut down on the amount of plastic bags blowing around is to restrict their use, and with large grocery and box stores in city limits, the ban will have a significant effect. Merchants will face a $300 fine for distributing plastic shopping bags once the ordinance goes into effect.
The measure isn’t without some controversy. Council member Paul Whitney contends that it would be more effective if the city of Kenai and the Kenai Peninsula Borough also were to adopt plastic bag bans. Soldotna merchants that currently use plastic shopping bags will need to change out their inventory, whether they switch to paper or rely on customers to bring their own bags — though many businesses order several months’ worth of bags at a time.
And the habits of shoppers will need to change. In fact, there are quite a few shoppers who already bring reusable shopping bags with them, and reusable bags have become some of the most popular swag at big events, such as last weekend’s Home Show.
But we’d argue that taking steps to make the community cleaner and the environment better is something we should all be in the habit of doing. Other communities around Alaska have taken similar steps, including Wasilla, which enacted a ban that goes into effect July 1.
Change can be challenging. We’re glad to see Soldotna rise to the challenge, and we hope to see other Kenai Peninsula communities follow its lead.