Environment & Science

Huntington Beach votes to repeal plastic bag ban

A clerk bags groceries in plastic grocery bags on June 18, 2013.
A clerk bags groceries in plastic grocery bags on June 18, 2013.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Two years after passing a plastic bag ban, Huntington Beach city officials will vote Monday on whether to repeal their own ordinance.

Council Member Mike Posey introduced the repeal the ordinance in January, not long after being elected to the council last year. It forces customers to use reusable bags at large retail stores or purchase paper ones for 10 cents.

“Banning plastic bags or reintroducing plastic bags, really has nothing to do with the environment,” Posey said. “What it has to do with consumer freedom of choice and keeping government out of setting prices.”

Posey, who was elected with three other new council members in November, said the 10-cent charge for paper bags was essentially the city government regulating retail prices.

The move comes as the plastic ban industry ferociously fights a statewide ban on plastic bags. The American Progressive Bag Alliance gathered more than 800,000 signatures in February to place a referendum on the November 2016 ballot to ask California voters to repeal a statewide plastic bag ban that the legislature passed last year. The law is stayed pending the November vote.

“I don’t understand when a plastic bag became a personal freedom,” said Jessica Budica, with the Huntington Beach, Seal Beach Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group. “We know for a fact that these negatively impact the environment, storm water drainage, marine life, litter costs."

Budica points to an environmental impact report produced for Huntington Beach in 2011 when the city council first considered the plastic bag ban.

It said that under the ban, only about 5.1 million plastic bags would circulate in Huntington Beach each year. Without the ordinance, it's 104.5 million plastic bags.

Posey argued there’s no proof plastic bags that end up in the ocean come from Huntington Beach.

“Most people are responsible, they know what do with plastic bags,” Posey said. “And if we are going to ban plastic bags, why not plastic bottles? Why not plastic packaging?”

He argued the same environmental impact report shows greenhouse gas emissions go up with the plastic bag ban because it takes more energy spent to manufacture and transport heavier paper bags.

If the council votes to repeal the bag ban, it would go into effect 30 days later.