After a heated discussion Monday, council members voted 4-3 to further talks about banning the use of plastic bags in Huntington Beach.

With Mayor Pro Tem Matt Harper, Joe Carchio and Dave Sullivan dissenting, the council agreed to reexamine a previous proposal and environmental impact report concerning use of single-use bags. They will vote on the issue at the March 18 meeting.

If it passes, businesses can charge customers a fee to those who choose to use plastic bags, Councilman Joe Shaw said.

"I don't know why we argued on this so much as we did," he said. "It's pretty much something that's a feel-good for everybody. It will have a positive effect on the environment."

Shaw added that mom-and-pop stores would benefit from this by being able to charge customers for plastic bags or making them buy reusable bags.

But Harper disagreed with Shaw and didn't want to see Huntington Beach follow suit in the footsteps of cities with "left-wing agendas," he said.

"This isn't the right to a free plastic bag," Harper said. "This is about freedom versus government intrusion. Whether or not a grocery store offers a paper bag, a plastic bag, a reusable bag or put either of those items on their shelf and charges for them should be the freedom of the business."

Sullivan said cities that have implemented this ban have seen increases in E. coli cases according to a study he read by the University of Pennsylvania and George Mason University.

"Because people fail to wash these reusable bags, they fail to use separate bags for meats and vegetables and things they bring forth [from the bag] are contaminated," he said.

Shaw argued that the study Sullivan read was "funded by the American Chemistry Council, which is the manufacturer who represents most of the manufacturers of plastic bags."

California Grocers Assn. Southern California director Sarah Sheehy supports the city's decision to consider banning plastic bags and wants to see Huntington Beach join cities like Laguna Beach and Long Beach.

"We know these ordinances work in promoting reusable bag use," Sheehy said.

Local surfers even came out to push the city to consider the plastic bag ban, including representatives from the Surfrider Foundation chapter in Huntington Beach.

"I highly doubt that people are coming to Huntington Beach for our plastic bags," Surfrider spokesman Greg Goran said. "People come here for our beaches and our waves. I don't think that reducing the plastic bags is going to jeopardize any business revenue or offend too many people."

anthonyclark.carpio@latimes.com

Twitter: @acocarpio