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RE: [greenyes] Alaskan villages ban plastic bags
We have a few more articles on what has happened in Alaska in our newsroom.

In addition there was an earlier request for information regarding rational
for implementing restrictions on plastic bags. We have laid out some of the
facts and rational driving this trend at our site.

Also we have worked with some of the Alaskan communities supplying them a
variety of reusable shopping bags (at discounted) and tools to help spread
awareness and increase acceptance. We'd be happy to help any other
communities in their efforts.

Vincent Cobb

-----Original Message-----
From: Monica Wilson [mailto:mwilson@no.address] 
Sent: Monday, January 24, 2005 1:52 PM
To: Christine McCoy; greenyes
Subject: [greenyes] Alaskan villages ban plastic bags

Dear Christine,

What a terrific idea to have a speaker at your policy conference. At least
30 communities in rural Alaska have banned plastic bags. I would recommend
contacting some of the people these villages, and a few people are
interviewed in the article below. Bill Stokes is another possibility, the
rural environmental specialist for the Alaska Department of Environmental
Conservation,  Another
thought is the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council. Seventeen Chiefs
from the Gwich'in Nation have signed a resolution to ban styrofoam and
plastic bags from their communities. Contact: Andrea Bongen, (907) 563-9334

Below are articles from 2003 about plastic bag bans in rural Alaska.

Good luck,
Monica Wilson
GAIA: Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives,
+1-510-883-9490  ext. 2# -- mwilson@no.address

Anchorage Daily News May 2, 2003

Towns bag 'Paper or plastic?' query
BANS: In some parts of rural Alaska, grocery bags are outlawed before they
become airborne trash.

Outside the Western Alaska village of Emmonak, white plastic shopping bags
used to start appearing 15 miles from town. They blew out of the dump and
rolled across the tundra like tumbleweeds. In Galena, they snagged in the
trees and drifted into the Yukon River. Outside Kotlik, on the Yukon Delta,
bags were found tangled around salmon and seals.

No more. All three villages banned the bags.

"It's working out good here," said Peter Captain Sr., chief of the tribal
council in Galena, where the city banned stores from using plastic bags in
1998. "You used to find plastic bags all over the place, up in the trees.
... But you don't see that now."

At least 30 communities statewide have banned plastic bags. They have joined
a growing list of places around the world that decided the bags' nuisance
outweighs their convenience. Ireland and Taiwan started taxing bags to
curtail their use. South Africa banned them completely, as did Bangladesh
after devastating floods were attributed to stray plastic bags blocking

In Alaska, the expansion of bag bans shows no signs of slowing down. Other
communities are now considering prohibitions, including the biggest city off
the road system, Bethel.

"They're horrible. They're all over," said Bethel City Councilman Jerry
Drake. Once, he said, driving to the airport outside town, "in a one-mile
stretch I counted over 200 bags." Looking out his living room window earlier
this week, he counted a dozen.

In Bethel as elsewhere, plastic bags flutter out of trash bins or ravens
peck them loose. They drift and lodge in bushes and trees, dot the roadsides
and collect on the trackless tundra.

Several years ago, Bethel public works director Clair Grifka said he looked
out his office window and saw an enormous flock of snow geese. Then he
realized it was 800 to 1,000 errant bags.

Drake's proposal would ban Bethel stores but not restaurants from using
plastic bags, essentially requiring them to use paper. Elsewhere, shoppers
have been encouraged to provide their own canvas or nylon bags, though in
some paper-only villages, shoppers hoard plastic bags and reuse them,
village officials have said. Violating the Bethel ban could cost up to $500.

The Bethel council largely supports the proposed ban, members said this
week. Public hearings later this month will gauge local opinion, but Drake
and other people believe the council will put the decision before Bethel
voters in October. Drake said he's sure it will be approved.

"In my four years on the council, I've never heard people talk to me like
this" about any other community issue, he said.

One reason it's such a hot topic is that the council approved a ban two
years ago only to see a voter initiative repeal the measure months later.
This time, the ban will stick, Drake predicts.

"The only reason it got repealed was that it was a poorly written ballot
measure, where yes meant no and no meant yes," he said. "I had to read the
ballot about three times before I realized what was going on with it, and I
knew all about it."

Others say that banning plastic bags is the wrong way to solve Bethel's
trash problem. Restaurant owner Yolanda Jorgensen sponsored the repeal
initiative two years ago and said she'll work to defeat the ban again this
fall. There are many angles to attack, she said.

Paper bags cost more to buy and ship to Western Alaska and take up more
storage space, a precious commodity for many businesses, Jorgensen said.
They're weak when wet and are hard to carry. And plastic can be recycled but
the City Council isn't talking about that, she said.

Jorgensen doesn't dispute they're ugly but added, "There are a lot more
things littering our tundra than plastic bags."

Many of Bethel's bags bear the distinctive logo of Alaska Commercial Co.,
the biggest store in town. Manager David Hicks said the store will abide by
the community's vote, but he fears that Bethel's poor will suffer most if
plastic bags vanish.

"It'll make a difference to the people that have to walk a lot," he said,
which includes many of the city's residents and visitors. Bethel is a city,
not a tiny village, Hicks said. "It's very difficult to walk home with more
than a night's worth of groceries in a paper bag, whereas you can walk home
with quite a bit in a plastic bag."

Banning plastic wasn't easy in Emmonak or Galena, officials said, and
attempts in other villages have failed because plastic bags have loyal fans.
Last year in Alakanuk, the City Council decided against a ban because of the
bags' utility, said village planner Stephanie Ayunerak. Not only are they
more convenient for carrying groceries, "they make good freezer bags," she
recalled council members saying.

Ban supporters, however, can point to places like Galena. The Yukon River
village also feared losing its plastic bags, but according to Huhndorf's
Store owner Max Huhndorf, "it's worked out OK. It took a little bit of
adjustment, but we did it."

The additional cost hasn't been an issue, because people started using
canvas bags and the store's empty cardboard boxes, he said.

"A lot of people will put their stuff under their arm and carry it home They
say, 'We don't want a bag.' It still costs us more (for paper bags), but in
the long run it's for the best," Huhndorf said.

In Emmonak, the village corporation store pays a nickel for each paper bag
returned, said Albert Westlock of the tribal council.

"You see a whole bunch of little kids making money after (retrieving) those
paper bags."

If the bag bans spread, there may soon be a bounty for plastic bags too.
Bill Stokes, the rural environmental specialist for the Department of
Environmental Conservation, promotes recycling plastic bags into valuable
crafts using nothing more than a size 6 crochet hook.

He first saw the method practiced in Mekoryuk in 1993, but it has spread
statewide. People cut plastic bags into strips, then crochet them into
backpacks, handbags, sweat bath mats and baskets, some with ornate Yup'ik or
Tlingit designs.

"It's nothing short of miraculous," he said.

It can be lucrative too. Shoulder bags have sold for as much as $300 and
often fetch $50, he said.

Nevertheless, Stokes still encourages bag bans, and the philosophy seems to
be spreading, he said.

"Village by village by village, they're just really tired of them."

Daily News reporter Joel Gay can be reached at jgay@no.address or at 257-4310.


Alaskan villages ban plastic bags

The Alaskan villages of Emmonak, Galena and Kotlik have banned plastic bags,
joining 30 other communities in Alaska that have turned to less
environmentally damaging ways of carrying groceries.

"It's working out good here," said Peter Captain Sr., chief of the tribal
council in Galena, where the city banned stores from using plastic bags in

Ireland and Taiwan tax bags to curtail their use. South Africa banned them
completely, as did Bangladesh after floods were linked to plastic bags
clogging up drains.

The Alaskan city of Bethel is now considering banning the bags. Clair
Grifka, Bethel's public works director, told the Anchorage Daily News that
he looked out his office window and saw an enormous flock of snow geese.
Then he realized it was 800 to 1,000 white plastic bags.

If adopted, the Bethel ban could cost violators up to $500.

Alaska's department of environmental conservation promotes the recycling of
plastic bags by turning them into crocheted crafts, backpacks, handbags,
bath mats and baskets.

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