Huntington Beach is looking to go greener after council members moved one step closer Monday night to banning the distribution of plastic bags in the city.
After nearly an hour and a half of discussion, with dialogue going back and forth between council members and public speakers, Councilman Dave Sullivan had one last comment about the topic: "Let's vote."
His comment was followed by applause and cheers from the audience in the council chambers.
"I don't know that any minds are being changed up here," Councilwoman Jill Hardy said, explaining why the discussion ran so long. "I think at this point most of us are just trying to explain our votes."
Barely passing in a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Harper and Councilmen Sullivan and Joe Carchio dissenting, shoppers will potentially have to bring their own reusable bags or pay 10 cents for a paper bag at their local retailer as a push to make the city more environmentally conscious.
If passed at the next meeting, stores like Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Kohl's and various grocery and convenience stores will be barred from handing out plastic bags.
Not only will the ban nudge consumers to be more environmentally friendly, but it also looks to address health concerns that affect those in Huntington Beach and the greater Southern California area.
"Plastic is not biodegradable and it remains in our environment," Councilman Joe Shaw said, quoting from a letter written by the Huntington Beach Environmental Board. "It is produced from non-renewable resources. Plastic bags break down into small pieces that absorb toxic chemicals, They are ingested by marine life and they enter the food chain we depend on."
Huntington Beach would become the third city in Orange County to ban plastic bags should council members decide to give it the green light on April 1. Laguna Beach was the first to start the ban, with Dana Point just approving the ban earlier this month.
"There are over 60 municipalities in California right now with a plastic bag ban, but it's not enough," said Bill Hickman, Rise Above Plastics coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation. "Long Beach has a bag ban and more Orange County coastal cities are coming along board. We need to show inland communities how important this is so we can spur them to act also."
But Carchio believes this decision to ban plastic bags shouldn't be placed on the city. He said Assemblyman Marc Levine has introduced AB 158 and thinks the state should take thelead on a ban.
"It's on the assembly floor and this is where it should be," he said. "It should be done by the state. It shouldn't be done by us. We shouldn't be doing this. The state of California should be doing this and Marc Levine is doing this."
However, Harper doesn't think the city or state should be telling businesses what they can and can't do with regard to bag distribution.
"The California state Legislature is trying to pass this as a similar law. I would submit that Huntington Beach does not have to be in a race with the California Legislature in an effort to expand the role of government into our daily lives," he said. "Councilman Shaw, I do not agree with your effort to have Huntington Beach follow in the footsteps of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Laguna Beach and West Hollywood. We are different. We should stand up for the freedoms of the people of Huntington Beach."