Huntington Beach officials voted 4-3 to turn down a proposal by Councilman Joe Carchio to change the city’s controversial reusable bag ordinance, which since last November has banned single-use plastic bags and charged a 10-cent fee for paper grocery bags.

Since the ban was passed last year, many residents have complained about the inconvenience of the ordinance while grocery clerks have raised concerns about the transmission of germs and bacteria from reusable bags.

The ordinance has  come before the city council for discussion several times, including an attempt by Councilman Dave Sullivan to place the issue before voters on the November ballot.

Carchio’s proposed changes, which failed to gain support from council members Joe Shaw, Jill Hardy, Connie Boardman and Mayor Matthew Harper, would have reduced the charge for paper bags from 10 to 5 cents a bag, the original cost to retailers, and implemented a buy-back program for plastic bags.

Boardman, Hardy and Shaw said the council should wait on pending state legislation before changing the rules. A bill is currently before the state Assembly that would ban single-use plastic bags and impose a similar 10-cent fee on other bags.

The fee is “intended to reimburse retailers for the cost of providing alternative bags and to encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags to the store,” state Senator Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) told the Los Angeles Times. 

Supporters of plastic bag bans say the policy will reduce waste and litter in neighborhoods and in the natural environment.

“[Over 100] jurisdictions have adopted these ordinances. This is not declining throughout the state, it’s increasing, it’s a trend,” said Boardman. “It’s happening at grassroots, city by city, county by county, and its reached a tipping point where we are going to see a statewide ban passed…which is where [a ban on plastic bags] will have an impact.”

Harper, who opposes the bag ban altogether, criticized the lack of metrics to measure the impact of the policy. Before the ordinance was implemented, the city did not collect any statistics on plastic bag litter or consumer usage of plastic bags.

“There’s no way to be able to measure whether this is successful or a failure in terms of implementation. Instead all it does is take away the freedoms and liberties of those businesses and individuals in the city,” Harper said.

Carchio and Sullivan join critics statewide who view plastic bag bans, particularly the additional fee for paper, as unfair to consumers.

“The ten cents is not fair to the consumers. It’s supposed to be a deterrent, the threshold where you would no longer use paper and get a reusable bag, [but] that is so far from the truth,” said Carchio. “The truth is they needed to get the grocery industry on board [with the ordinance] and the grocery industry needed to get the money back.”

“All that ten cents is, is a bribe to the supermarkets. And without that, they would be at the podium opposing this stupid plastic bag ban,” Sullivan added.

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