The state and Columbia dispute plastic bag bans

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COLUMBIA - One Missouri bill has upset some Columbia city council members. The city has been working for about five months on an ordinance to ban plastic bags at grocery stores. But just one month before the vote a state representative introduced a bill that would prevent any paper and plastic bag bans or taxes in the state.

"The purpose of the bill is to ensure the retailers and consumers both have a choice when choosing between paper and plastic, how they take their groceries home," Rep. Dan Shaul (R-Imperial) said. "I don't feel the government should limit their choice."

Some city council members said they find the proposal to limit how a city tackles its own issues ridiculous.

"I don't think it's really appropriate for the state to prevent local municipalities from reaching their own decisions about how they want to regulate issues such as those," Fourth Ward Councilman Ian Thomas said.

One of the environmentalists to present the ordinance to city council in 2014 said the state has no business imposing on the local issue.

"You know the city should have the right to really control their own environment when it comes to pollution when it comes to litter," said Carolyn Amparan, Osage Group chair of the Sierra Club.

Shaul said residents can make their own environmentally conscious decisions.

"You can recycle plastic bags. You can recycle paper bags," Shaul said. "The recycle issue is one thing and I think the re-use issue is also even more important because plastic bags at a grocery store can be used two or three times before it's discarded."

But studies show recycling plastic bags has not been a priority in the United States. According to the EPA, 6.1 percent of the material used for plastic bags was recycled in 2009. That number increased to 12 percent in 2012.

Because of the very low recycling numbers, Amparan said the state bill would take away the best environmental option.

"Based on experience that other cities have had, there's not an alternative that will be as effective," she said.

Thomas said he does not think Columbia will pass the ban at this time, but for reasons aside from the state bill.

"A lot of people really feel that this is an overreach by the local government," Thomas said. "And if there's a lot of opposition to something then I don't want to force that down anybody's throat."

Thomas said he would like to see the ordinance tabled for six months to allow for more awareness education on the issue, but he said he understands if the bill against such bans eventually passes, talk about the city ordinance would end.

The bill has not yet made it to the House floor. The city council is supposed to vote on the ban Monday.

 

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