Retailers react to plastic bag ban

Retailers in Huntington Beach have seven months to adjust to the city's new ban on the distribution of plastic bags. Though it has yet to take affect, it has some businesses in the community worried.

Approval for the ban was finalized Monday by the City Council with a 4-2 vote.

The public has a 30-day period to gather signatures and appeal the ordinance, but if no appeal is made the ban will take effect on Nov. 1.

Huntington Beach would be the third city in Orange County to prohibit the distribution of single-use bags. Laguna Beach was the first city to do so, with Dana Point following suit.

Stores will be barred from distributing these bags to customers. Consumers will also be charged 10 cents for each paper bag retailers provide them, according to the ordinance.

"We are particularly pleased that they included most retailers," said Sarah Sheehy, spokeswoman for the California Grocers Assn. "When [grocers] use a plastic bag, is the same kind of plastic bag retailers are using. We're glad they kind of included everybody in the model."

A few local businesses have some concerns regarding the plastic bag ban. Downtown Huntington Beach clothing store Catwalk Boutique owner Erynne Weiss said she has boxes of plastic bags in her store and none of her customers bring in their own bags.

"I'm going to have to do some research and find cheaper paper bags," she said. "I'm going to be pissed if paper bags are triple the amount of plastic bags. Who are they to tell me what I can use inside my store that I pay rent for."

Next door in Jack's Surfboards, manager Marty Bounds said their store has never used plastic bags and placed their products in small paper bags. He said he's more worried about customers that aren't local and are unaware of the law.

"I've been working here for 16 years and we've been using [paper bags] for that long," he said. "My only problem with it is that there's a lot of tourists around here. If they don't know the law and aren't from the state, how are they going to know to bring a bag when they come and buy a thousand dollars worth of stuff? Good luck carrying that down the street to your car without letting it slip out of your hands."

Mayor Pro Tem Matthew Harper and Councilman Dave Sullivan voted against the ban and Councilman Joe Carchio was absent. Council members had a brief discussion about the matter, compared to the hour and a half long talk they had on March 18.

Harper tried to add an amendment that would create an independent audit to measure how many paper bags are sold.

He said he is concerned that, according to Planning Director Scott Hess, the city has no way to determine the number of paper bags being circulated before the ordinance takes effect.

"There's no one who's willing to make the amendment, as was clear in the discussion at the last meeting. It sounded as if at least one council member that had voted for this was interested in being able to find out this information," he said. "But right now this simply looks like an ideological move to the left for the city of Huntington Beach."

The ordinance states that stores need to keep a record of how many paper bags were sold and how much money was made from the sales.

Sheehy said individual stores are required to keep track of how many paper bags they sell and are required by state law to print any sale of any item, including paper bags, on the receipt.

Councilman Jim Katapodis believes that no other measure needs to be placed to identify if the ban is working.

"I believe the audit's in place," Katapodis said. "I understand Mayor Pro Tem Harper's position, and although I appreciate it, I think that the audit is in place and we should look at [the ordinance] the way it's written right now."

Twitter: @acocarpio

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