Legislature(2017 - 2018)BARNES 124
04/04/2018 03:15 PM LABOR & COMMERCE
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HB 264-SHOPPING BAG FEES & RECYCLING 4:00:00 PM CHAIR KITO announced that the next order of business would be HOUSE BILL NO. 264, "An Act relating to a fee for disposable shopping bags; relating to the sale of reusable shopping bags; relating to the recycling of disposable shopping bags; and providing for an effective date." 4:00:49 PM REPRESENTATIVE WOOL moved to adopt the CS to HB 264 as a working document. There being no objection, it was so ordered. 4:01:17 PM CAITLYN ELLIS, Staff, Representative Sam Kito, Alaska State Legislature, presented the CS to HB 264 on behalf of the House Labor and Commerce Standing Committee. She paraphrased the summary of changes [included in committee packet], which reads as follows [original punctuation provided]: 1. Title: from "An Act relating to a fee for disposable shopping bags; relating to the sale of reusable shopping bags; relating to the recycling of disposable shopping bags; and providing for an effective date." to "An Act prohibiting disposable plastic shopping bags; relating to a minimum price for paper and other shopping bags; relating to the sale of reusable shopping bags; and providing for an effective date." 2. Removes the fee for single-use bags and creates a ban for single-use (disposable) plastic bags. 3. Establishes a minimum 10-cent fee for all other bags (plastic, reusable). The retail seller keeps 100% of this fee. Its purpose is to prevent a loophole that would allow store to give away thick plastic bags in lieu of single-use plastic bags. 4. Removes the exemption for communities of less than 5,500 persons. 5. Removes the 18-pound weight capacity requirement for reusable bags. 4:02:48 PM REPRESENTATIVE WOOL asked whether the proposed bill would require restaurants to charge for plastic bags used for take-out orders and "doggy bags". MS. ELLIS answered that was not addressed in the current proposed legislation. 4:04:43 PM SUZANNE COHEN, 350 Juneau, testified in support of HB 264. She said the only way to change behavior is to establish a fee for plastic bags. She said Denmark had seen a drop in usage after establishing a ban. She listed countries and cities which have established fees or bans on plastic bags. She addressed impacts on wildlife. REPRESENTATIVE WOOL asked whether members of 350 Juneau are small business owners. He asked about being charged extra for the bags. MS. COHEN answered that she and her husband own a small business and described their efforts to reduce usage by reusing the bags their stock comes in. REPRESENTATIVE KNOPP asked whether the group had approached local authorities about the restriction. MS. COHEN answered the organization was a recent entity. She said there had been a push which had failed previously. CHAIR KITO brought up Styrofoam packages and asked whether those were being addressed by the organization. MS. COHEN said the parent organization is very much sticking to climate issues. She said she did not think it was addressing Styrofoam. 4:11:40 PM KATHIE WASSERMAN, Executive Director, Alaska Municipal League (AML), testified in the hearing HB 264. She said the AML has discussed the issue at length and it was felt [banning bags] should be a municipal issue. She underlined municipalities can work directly with local businesses. She shared personal experience with ordering paper bags which had to be shipped from out of state, adding to the carbon impact, whereas only one truckload was needed for the same number of plastic bags. She said AML is not opposed to the concept but feels it can deal with plastic bags on a local level. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON listed some communities that are actively looking at the issue. He asked Ms. Wasserman whether she has seen so many significant communities move in a short period of time over an issue. MS. WASSERMAN said she has seen municipalities respond to any number of things. REPRESENTATIVE SULLIVAN-LEONARD commented that Representative Josephson had proved the point that municipalities can deal with the issue locally. 4:16:19 PM MARY VAVIRK testified in support of HB 264. She spoke to the unsightly effects of plastic bags in the environment. 4:17:52 PM LISBETH JACKSON testified in support of HB 264. She spoke to the unsightly effects of plastic bags and to the health issues. She said it is a state issue. She mentioned the tourist industry and [the importance of] keeping the area beautiful. REPRESENTATIVE WOOL asked whether Ms. Jackson uses bags in her business. MS. JACKSON answered that she doesn't use bags for her B&B business. She said she does use plastic bags for garbage. REPRESENTATIVE WOOL asked whether she lives in a community that bans bags. MS. JACKSON said she lives near Palmer, Alaska. REPRESENTATIVE WOOL asked about charges for bags. MS. JACKSON answered there was never a fee instituted for the bag ban in the city of Wasilla, Alaska. 4:21:28 PM MICHELLE PUTZ, Bags for Change, testified in support of HB 264. She said the Sitka, Alaska, assembly was working on a bag ban or fee. She said the effort was to move people to reusable bags, not paper. She said a fee on paper bags would help the plastic bag ban "in court." She spoke to the toxins in plastics and health issues. She mentioned a boat incident due to plastic bags in the ocean. She spoke to local businesses' reactions to a bag fee. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON asked how someone's litigation has benefited by a ban on plastic bags. MS. PUTZ answered there was a court case in California in which the plastic companies tried to sue, but because they had a fee on paper bags as well, the fee on the paper bags protected them 4:25:47 PM SOPHIA TIDLER, Member, Anchorage Waterway Council, testified in support HB 264. She said the council organizes waterway cleanup and the amount of plastics collected is unsettling. She said many communities support the ban or fee. She said consumer behavior change is why she supports the proposed bill. She drew parallels with the fight for equal rights and the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 4:29:08 PM MATT SEAHOLM, American Progressive Bag Alliance, testified in opposition to HB 264. He paraphrased from his written testimony [included in committee packet], which reads as follows [original punctuation provided]: On behalf of the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA), an organization that represents our country's plastic retail bag manufacturers and recyclers, thank you for the opportunity to submit this testimony to share our collective concerns with HB 264, which would impose a regressive 20-cent fee on disposable shopping bags or as is being reported in the media, be amended to ban all plastic retail bags. We respect and applaud Representatives Josephson and Drummond and others for taking the goals of waste and litter reduction seriously. We share a common commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability. Both are critical to ensuring that we are protecting Alaska's natural beauty and are solid business principles. As a waste reduction measureand not just a fundraising billHB 264 is flawed. Bag bans and taxes may lead to fewer plastic retail bags being used, but similar policies have never delivered significant reductions in overall waste or litter. Policies that ban plastic bags push consumers to use less sustainable alternatives by comparison, and bag taxes often impose a regressive, inequitable burden on the most income-sensitive residents. That's a serious cost to consider for Alaska's hard-working families and fixed income seniors who may incur higher costs to their grocery bills or be forced to buy more expensive alternatives to highly reusable plastic retail bags. Beyond the economic impact for individual families and shoppers, HB 264 would require Alaska businessesmany of whom are APBA members' customersto track, report and remit shopping bag tax revenue to the state. These additional reporting, training and compliance obligations will increase the cost of doing business in Alaska. Those higher costs may not be covered by the 25-percent allowance this bill designates for retailers and could end up being passed down as an additional consumer burden, on top of the initial regressive transaction fee and ban. The proposed environmental benefits would neither relieve the burden on Alaska's fixed income families and seniors nor deliver meaningful outcomes on sustainability efforts. Environmental Protection Agency figures show plastic retail bags comprise just 0.5 percent of national waste, and national studies find the same bags account for less than one to two percent of litter. When compared side-by-side to its alternatives, plastic retail bags are the most environmentally friendly choice. In relating the life cycle impacts of plastic to the alternatives paper and cloth bags University of Oregon professor David Tyler observed: "There are really good things about plastic bags they produce less greenhouse gas, they use less water and they use far fewer chemicals compared to paper or cotton. The carbon footprint that is, the amount of greenhouse gas that is produced during the life cycle of a plastic bagis less than that of a paper bag or a cotton tote bag. If the most important environmental impact you wanted to alleviate was global warming, then you would go with plastic." Across the country, several states and cities have decided against implementing taxes and bans on plastic grocery bags because of the burden on the public and lack of environmental benefits. When Denver, CO explored, and ultimately rejected, a bag ordinance in 2013, the city's Office of Sustainability concluded, "Single-use bags of all types constitute well under one percent of all waste delivered to landfills? There are no substantiated claims that a bag fee will result in entirely eliminating even this tiny fraction of waste sent to landfills? Concluding that a bag fee will make a substantial dent in waste going to landfills is misguided." Likewise, voters in Durango, CO overturned a 10-cent bag fee in 2013, and in 2014, the Fort Collins, CO City Council repealed their local fee. In Austin, TX, and Thurston County, WA, respectively, bag laws actually led to more landfill waste from reusable bags and doubled the use of paper bags that use more resources. MR. SEACOLM spoke to studies in Denmark comparing plastic and cotton bags, which found that cotton bags have to be used 7,100 times to offset the impact of all environmental indicators. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON asked about the bags described in the Denmark study. 4:34:28 PM MR. SEAHOLM said the plastic used in Europe is low-density polyethylene and that is what was studied. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON asked whether the bags were light 4 milligram bags. MR. SEAHOLM answered a variety of bag thicknesses are used. REPRESENTATIVE JOSEPHSON spoke to the effects of plastic bags in caribou and reindeer stomachs. He asked what the solution is. MR. SEAHOLM answered there are other alternatives. He said recycling is a big part of it. He spoke to reuse. He said a Quebec study found that 77.7 percent of bags are reused. He said some of that is for garbage or pet waste. He indicated that the plastic bags in rivers and streams makes up less than 1 percent. He said some communities found that bans lead to an increase in litter and waste. 4:38:05 PM REPRESENTATIVE BIRCH asked about technologies that can aid degrading of plastics. MR. SEAHOLM answered there not a biodegradable option. He stated that paper takes as long to break down as a plastic bag would. 4:39:44 PM KAREN PERRY testified in opposition to HB 264. She expressed her strong opposition to HB 264. 4:40:49 PM CAROL MONTGOMERY, Matsu Zero Waste Coalition, testified in the hearing on HB 264. She gave an update on her organization's activity since her previous testimony. She said plastic bags are harmful in part due to their light weight which causes them to "fly all over." She encouraged statewide action. CHAIR KITO closed public testimony. CHAIR KITO held over HB 264.
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