Genny Rietze, a member of Haines Friends of Recycling used reusable canvas bags for groceries instead of paper or plastic. (Photo/Genny Rietze)

The Haines Borough Assembly approved a plastic bag ban earlier this week. Starting January 1, it will be unlawful for businesses in Haines to provide single-use non-compostable plastic shopping bags to customers.

The bag ban was championed by sixth graders from the Haines School and Haines Friends of Recycling, a non-profit recycling service in Haines. Friends of Recycling Chair Melissa Aaronson spoke in favor of the ban before the Haines Borough Assembly on Tuesday.

“Banning plastic bags will help with protecting our waterways and wildlife and reducing litter in our beautiful and productive borough,” Aaronson said.  

Since the ordinance was introduced a month ago, the assembly has discussed whether a bag tax would provide more benefits than a ban.

Haines resident Burl Sheldon said that while he supported the ordinance, he felt that a tax could be useful for the community.

“There is money that rightly can be taken at retail level to fund things from youth obesity programs and child well being to solid waste management,” Sheldon said. 

Others were concerned that the administrative costs associated with a tax would outweigh the benefits.

The bag ban does not prohibit the use of plastic bags altogether. For example, businesses may provide plastic bags to package bulk items such as fruit, vegetables and nuts, or for damp or leaking products.

In addition, the ordinance does not contain penalties for businesses that do not comply with the ban.

Plastic bag bans have been adopted in more than a dozen communities across Alaska, from Wasilla to Koyuk.

The legislature is considering a statewide plastic bag ban as well.