Anchorage Assembly approves tougher trash laws to reduce bear problems

Food scraps can no longer be left outside in just plastic bags in Anchorage, and trash bins can only go out for pickup on the morning of collection, unless they’re bear-resistant, under a new law passed by the Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday night.

The new law is an effort to reduce bear problems in the city by cleaning up sloppy trash storage, city officials said. Unsecured, smelly trash can draw bears into neighborhoods where they become a public safety threat or nuisance, and sometimes must be killed.

[Authorities kill brown bear in Eagle River and again warn residents to secure trash]

The new law simplifies what was previously in code, making it easier to enforce, officials said. It sets when and where trash can be left outside across the municipality, and it includes new fines for trash violations. It also establishes a framework for the Assembly to label certain bear-prone parts of town as “Secure Trash Regulation Zones." In the zones, bear-resistant trash containers or indoor garbage storage would be required.

The Assembly is expected to name Girdwood its first regulation zone later this year. Already, about 85% of Girdwood residents who use curbside pickup have bear-resistant bins, making it a good place to pilot the program, Assembly members have said.

“This is by no means a silver bullet, there are other things that have to be done, but I think this is an important step,” Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar said.

The Assembly passed the new trash law in a 10-0 vote with Assemblyman Fred Dyson absent.


Among the new law’s key points that are in effect municipality-wide:

• People can only leave plastic bags outside and out of a bin if the bags contain just “rubbish,” defined as solid wastes that won’t become rotten such as tin cans and glass.

• All trash containers must have tight-fitting covers or similar closures. When not out for pickup, trash containers need to be stored inside of a structure or within 5 feet of the main building, such as a house.

• Bear-resistant containers can go out for trash pickup no more than 12 hours before the day of pickup, with all other containers going out the morning of collection. All trash bins must be brought in by 9 p.m.

• People will face a $100 fine for their first trash-handling violation and waste haulers could face a $1,000 fine for their first offense, including failing to pick up garbage on time. The fines would grow with subsequent violations.

Tegan Hanlon

Tegan Hanlon was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News between 2013 and 2019. She now reports for Alaska Public Media.