Missouri tries to ban bans

By: 
February 25, 2015

You might expect some good, old-fashioned common sense to come from the Midwest. According to an Associated Press (AP) article that appeared on Feb. 24, a Missouri lawmaker, who also leads an association of in-state grocery stores opposed to restrictions on the use of plastic bags, is bucking a national trend toward banning the use of plastic bags to help the environment.

Republican state Rep. Dan Shaul of Imperial has sponsored legislation that would leave it up to grocery stores and consumers to choose what bags they use, according to an AP article that appeared in the News Tribune. The bill comes as a result of an attempt by the city of Columbia, home to the University of Missouri, to ban grocery stores from offering plastic bags and requiring them to place a 10-cent fee on paper bags.

Some have accused Rep. Shaul of a conflict of interest, given his position with the Missouri Grocers Association. In the AP article, he said that he doesn't believe it is, given that it's the association's duty to its members to track legislation that impacts its industry.

A University of Missouri law professor agreed that it may not be a conflict of interest, but that it "makes [Shaul] look pretty bad" in the eyes of the public.

Of course that's only because the public isn't aware of the huge amount of plastic bags that get reused and recycled every year. And many people work in the plastics industry in Missouri, and they are most likely in favor of being able to choose plastic bags.

As I wrote just yesterday, the recycling of postconsumer plastic film packaging (wraps and bags) surged 116 million pounds, or 11%, in 2013 (the last year for which numbers are available), according to a national report released at the 2015 Plastics Recycling Conference this week. The report also noted that there was a 75% increase in polyethylene film collected for recycling since 2005. That's a pretty impressive number.

Florida is the only other state that has put a stop to local efforts to ban plastic bags, said the AP article. Others say that a "state ban" on "city bans" is an enormous overreach, and that cities should have the autonomy to implement bans, if desired.

This is another instance in which education of the public about the value in plastic bags, both to reuse for garbage and pet waste (two uses that many people find handy for plastic bags) and to recycle into products like decking, railing and fencing, should be considered as an alternative to outright bans on plastic bags.

Many cities—San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle and others—have banned plastic bags because it's just plain easier to ban them than it is to educate citizens and try to turn them into responsible human beings!

I say the Missourians from the "Show Me" state are "showin' ‘em!"

Let's hope the legislation to stop these intrusive bans goes through. I'll keep my eyes on it!

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