Missouri lawmaker wants to stop local plastic bans: 'Let's keep government out of it'

COLUMBIA, Mo. --  As states across the country consider anti-plastic legislation and banning items like drinking bottles and plastic utensils, a Missouri lawmaker is doing the opposite -- he is pushing for laws that would prevent city leaders from banning plastic products.

The proposed law in Missouri’s House of Representatives would prevent local lawmakers from imposing any restrictions or prohibition on plastic products, including straws and cups.

HB 271 is an extension of current laws in the state passed in 2015 that stop cities from banning paper and plastic bags.

“What we saw was several states have gone beyond getting involved with businesses with the bags,” said Missouri State Rep. Dan Shaul, sponsor of the bill. “I’ve always been one for less government. Let’s keep government out of it, and let the businesses and consumer decide how to conduct their business.”

Shaul’s proposed bill also prevents government agencies from imposing a tax on plastic items.

“Everybody is talking about the plastic straw but it goes beyond that,” Shaul stated. “We have a grocery store chain in Saint Louis that will cook your seafood for you. Well, what kind of container do you put that in to take it home so it stays fresh in the same condition? I think it’s best left to the consumer and retailer.”

For John Shulte, owner of Shulte’s Fresh Foods in Jefferson City, his choice of using plastic has to do with the company’s bottom-line.

“The plastic offers a nice visual for the product,” Shulte stated to Fox News. “You can see the product better and the product looks good and the visibility is good. You're more apt to sell that product and sell a lot of it.”

Shulte said that while he recycles at home, he doesn't think lawmakers should impose rules on single-use plastic litter.

At least 91 bills have been introduced in cities across the country so far this year, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most of the bills introduced would ban or place a fee on plastic bags.

Six states, including North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia, are considering preempting local governments from placing a ban or fee on bags.

And while there’s no current legislation in the state of Missouri that bans businesses from using plastic straws and containers, some businesses in the state are choosing alternatives.

Restaurants like the Barred Owl Butcher & Table are providing customers with metal straws.

“We've always been kind of really aware of our impact on the community and in the environment as a restaurant,” the restaurant’s owner Ben Parks said. “Restaurants, in general, tend to produce a lot of waste and so we try to look for whatever ways we can to minimize our waste, especially our plastic waste in any way possible.”

Research from Louisiana State University shows that of the more than 5 million tons of plastic that enters the ocean every year, a majority comes from the Mississippi River.

That’s why opponents of the bill say local jurisdictions should have a say in addressing plastic products in their communities.

“This bill does not create a solution,” Ed Smith, policy director for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment, told Fox News. “It just kicks the can down the road and going to make plastic pollution a problem.”