CITY HALL — The City Council on Tuesday fulfilled a long-delayed promise by voting to ban Santa Monica retailers from giving out free single-use plastic bags at the cash register — a move environmentalists say will encourage people to bring reusable bags to the store and reduce litter and carbon emissions.

Under the ban, grocery stores, pharmacies, liquor stores and convenience stores are allowed to provide recycled paper bags at the point of sale but must charge customers at least 10 cents for each one.

The intent, according to city officials, is to “significantly reduce the environmental impacts related to single-use plastic and carry out bags, and to promote a major shift toward reusable bags.”

There was never any doubt the council, which considered adopting a plastic bag ban in 2008 but held off because of legal concerns, would approve the measure.

A steady stream of backers spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, saying it was high time Santa Monica followed cities like Malibu and Manhattan Beach in passing a ban.

While local retailers have either been silent on the issue or supportive of the ban, organized opposition has come from the group Save the Plastic Bag, which represents the interests of plastic manufacturers.

An attorney for the group, Stephen Joseph, raised several technical objections to Santa Monica’s ban on Tuesday, arguing City Hall should have relied on environmental documents prepared by Los Angeles County officials, which recently adopted a similar ban for unincorporated areas under its jurisdiction.

While no lawsuit has been announced, Joseph’s group has sued other municipalities over bag bans, and City Hall attorneys said they were prepared to defend Santa Monica’s ban in court.

Under pressure from Save the Plastic Bag, the council agreed to several other last minute changes to its ordinance, the most significant of which exempted restaurants from the ban. Previously, the proposed ordinance had permitted restaurants to use free plastic bags only for soup and other hot food take-out orders where safety was a concern.

The council also agreed to strengthen the manufacturing standards for acceptable reusable shopping bags.

In comments before the vote, Joseph took a defiant stance, calling the so-called “Pacific garbage patch,” cited by environmentalists as proof of the need to reduce pollution from discarded plastics, a myth.

Mark Gold, president of the non-profit Heal the Bay, derided Joseph’s comments as “bullying tactics to intimidate the democratic process.”

The City Council first considered adopting a plastic bag ban in 2008, but went back to the drawing board when the plastic industry threatened to sue if City Hall didn’t first conduct a complete environmental impact report on the proposed ban.

While City Hall has now completed that study, a new complication emerged with the passage of Proposition 26 in November. Because of that measure, which created the requirement that any new government fee must be approved by two-thirds of voters, Santa Monica had to scrap part of its original proposal, which had suggested a 20-cent fee for paper bags that would in part have funded enforcement of the ban.

In the version of the ban adopted on Tuesday, retailers keep the entirety of the fee charged for paper bags.

Before approving the ordinance, council members said it had been worth the wait to put off adopting the plastic bag ban until environmental studies had been completed and legal issues more thoroughly worked out.

With the vote Tuesday night, Santa Monica became the eighth jurisdiction in California to adopt a plastic bag ban.

“We wanted something that is going to stand up in court, and we think this ordinance is going to do just that,” Bloom said.

Speaking to the crowd of bag-ban supporters, Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis said the next step is to get the word out about the new law to boost compliance.

“This is sort of the beginning, not the end,” she said. “We all need to be as enthusiastic about spreading the word about reusable bags as we are tonight.”

The ban will take effect 30 days after the council approves a second reading of the ordinance, which is expected to take place at its next meeting.

Active enforcement of the ban, though, won’t go into effect until September, city officials said.

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