A proposed ordinance sponsored by three Anchorage Assembly members would permanently remove the current 10-cent-per-bag fee now required to be paid by shoppers who use paper or plastic bags provided by stores.
Crystal Kennedy, Jamie Allard, and Meg Zalatel are offering AO No. 2020-49 for consideration at the May 19 Anchorage Assembly meeting.
The bag fee was implemented as part of the plastic bag ban that went into effect Sept. 15, 2019. The ordinance forced retailers to stop providing plastic bags to shoppers, and also forced them to charge 10 cents for every paper bag that shoppers use, up to 50 cents per transaction. Some retailers have charged 50 cents for a paper bag under the ordinance.
After the coronavirus swept across the world, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz temporarily suspended the bag fee on March 25, evidently because of fears that people who were bringing their own reusable shopping bags into stores were more likely to carry “fomites” — items that had particles of the COVID-19 coronavirus — with them into the stores. Bags directly from the manufacturer were less likely to have sticky virus particles on them. The bag fee, for now, is optional.
Since the coronavirus hit Alaska’s biggest cities, many of the major grocery stores found the plastic bags that they must have had in storage and have moved those to the checkout stands. Technically, the stores are out of compliance with the city ordinance, but while code enforcers have shut down stores during the emergency order, they turned a blind eye to the plastic bag purveyors.
Also on the agenda, is a resolution to lift the various “hunker down” emergency orders enacted by Mayor Berkowitz.