Phil Marcus unloads his mixed paper and plastic bags of groceries into his car in front of Vons on Broadway and Lincoln Boulevard on Thursday afternoon. City officials said they will pass their own ban if a statewide proposal falls through. (photo by Brandon Wise)

CITY HALL — With the fate of a proposed statewide plastic bag ban still uncertain, Santa Monica officials on Thursday declared their intention to move ahead with a local version of the law should Sacramento legislators fail to pass the ban by the end of the legislative session on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and officials in Manhattan Beach made similar announcements on Thursday.

The state bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica), would ban single-use carryout bags at grocery stores, drug stores, convenience stores and liquor stores. Affected stores could sell recycled paper bags at cost to shoppers who forget their re-useable bags.

Terry O’Day, a City Councilman and the executive director of the group Environment Now, said a statewide measure is the best strategy, but added Santa Monica is prepared to take action if Brownley’s bill stalls.

“We bear the burden of dealing with this trash as a city,” he said.

The bill in Sacramento would “provide a uniform standard throughout the state that would make it easier for businesses to comply and easier for consumers to understand the regulations,” he said.

The Santa Monica City Council for years has pondered barring stores from giving out free plastic bags but last year delayed enacting a ban in order to conduct further environmental studies.

Representatives of the plastics industry had threatened to sue if Santa Monica would have moved ahead with its bag ban plans, said Dean Kubani, director of City Hall’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment.

Having participated in a joint environmental assessment with other jurisdictions interested in enacting plastic bag bans and completed a separate study of a local bag ban in July, Kubani said the issue could come before the council again in October.

The state Legislature’s passage of the ban, though, would make further local action moot.

Backed by a coalition of environmental groups including Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay as well as by the California Grocers Association, the bill, AB 1998, has passed the state Assembly and is pending before the state Senate’s rules committee, where amendments are being proposed.

An ad campaign sponsored by the American Chemistry Council, the bill’s chief opponent with members in the plastics and oil industries, in the past week has targeted the measure, criticizing it as a an economic drag and a tax on consumers — characterizations supporters deny.

Brownley this week said she expects the full senate to vote on the bill before the end of the session on Tuesday.

Supporters say AB 1998 would greatly reduce a source of trash that kills and maims marine wildlife, pollutes fish with toxic chemicals and costs Californians more than $25 million a year to collect and truck to landfills.

Less than 5 percent of the 19 billion single-use plastic bags handed out annually in California are recycled, according to Brownley. Using paper bags instead, she said, is not a good alternative because they contribute to deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions and waste.

Several changes were made to the bill on Thursday, but Brownley said none of them weakened its intent.

“The bill continues to be a bill that bans single-use bags and the amendments that we have put in only strengthen the bill further,” she said.

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