Plastic bags at the Homer Farmers Market

Sep 17, 2019

Most folks at the Homer Farmers Market bring their own bags.
Credit KBBI

A cowbell rings the market open every Saturday morning at 10. Shoppers stroll the market stalls. Most carry baskets and reusable bags they are filling with produce and locally made items.

Margaret Lavigueur is often at the market representing Kachemak Bay Lions Club. Today, she's selling tickets for the market’s Thanksgiving turkey raffle and she's checking in with the Yes to Better Bags booth right next to her raffle table. Lavigueur says she'll vote yes to ban single-use plastic bags in Homer.

“I hate seeing all the plastic blowing around on the trees and on the ground. I have about a dozen bags ready to go,” she says.

The Yes to Better Bags booth is filled with reusable shopping bags that Bjorn Olson and Laurie Daniel are giving away to Homer residents.

They both have talking points sourced from the World Health Forum and local waste management data. Olson starts by saying he wants to highlight not just the social benefits, but also the economic benefits of being environmentally conscious.

“Retailers throughout the United States spend four billion dollars a year subsidizing our forgetfulness. And so that's the very simple number to come to and say, well , I'm costing society four billion dollars because I'm being forgetful, said Olsen.”
Daniel added, “On average an individual bag is used for 12 minutes before it is trashed. It stays in the environment for 500 years.”

The ban on single-use plastic bags will appear on the October 1, 2019 municipal election ballot. It was introduced by councilmember Caroline Venuti. The proposition reads:
Should the City of Homer amend Homer city code to prohibit a seller from providing a buyer a single use plastic carry-out bag under 2.5 milliliters thick?

Vanessa Fefelov is at the market with a friend. She's in favor of the ban.

“ I use reusable bags, but I also use the ones from the store. However, if they weren't available at the store, I'd be fine with that. I will vote for it. Yeah, I didn't know how to answer that. For or against, what does that mean?” said Fefelov.

 A yes vote in the upcoming election would amend city code and prohibit retailers from providing those bags.

Dave Schneider says Homer needs to catch up with Soldotna, Wasilla, Anchorage and 16 other communities in Alaska that have already enacted a ban.

“I feel it's time. I feel it's past time. This is something that is, I think, inevitable,” said Schneider. “ So why not just go for it?”

Back in 2012, then, Councilmember David Lewis introduced an ordinance banning thin plastic bags. The measure did pass but was repealed by voters in a special election.

Colleen Powers is a market vendor. She sells Arctic Rose Herbs and she keeps single-use plastic bags under the table in a milk crate for people that don't bring their own.

“But I think that if there were very low-cost totes available here at the market… because otherwise there are many people who show up that say. Oh, I didn't bring my bag,” said Powers.

Styrofoam, clear plastic clamshell containers and plastic water bottles are expressly prohibited by the Homer Farmers Market, but it's only suggested that people steer clear of plastic bags  Over at market headquarters, Maggie Wyatt says she is in favor of the ban, even though she uses single-use plastic bags on occasion.

“I think it would positively affect the market. I think that more people would buy our canvas tote bags and I think it might encourage the craft vendors to sell reusable bags.”

Leanne Hartman lives in Soldotna and is building a home in Homer.

“When you have a last-minute stop…once you learn to put a few just be reusable bags in your car, you're generally okay,” said Hartman.

The ban on single-use plastic bags is Proposition A on the ballot for Homer residents in the upcoming election. You can see election ballots and read them ahead of time by picking one up at the city clerk's office at Homer City Hall or by going to the City of Homer's website.