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With numerous cities and states banning single-use plastic bags, why hasn’t Missouri done the same?

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Concerns about pollution and threats to the environment have fueled more than 350 cities and eight states to ban single-use plastic bags.

So why haven't lawmakers in Missouri taken similar action?

Environmentalists would like to see it happen, but a law passed four years ago has lawmakers' hands tied.

Missouri, however, could ban Styrofoam containers that don't break down and threaten the environment. After FOX4 made some calls, that's an idea local leaders, and at least one state lawmaker, are now considering.

Leaders respond when FOX4 asks: Will local cities try to ban Styrofoam containers?

Eighth-graders at Pembroke Hill School, many of them young environmentalists, are alarmed by the plastic bags that litter Brush Creek, our community and our planet.

"And they are really bad for the environment," one student said.

Fast Facts: Environmental Concerns About Plastic Products

During a class project last year, these eco-warriors learned how plastic bags, bottles and containers threaten marine life, pollute waterways and take generations to break down, filling up landfills.

Plastic, they said, needs to go for the sake of their generation and those who follow.

"It could just be sitting in a landfill for thousands of years," another student said.

But facts like that have left many wondering why Missouri and cities across the Show-Me State haven't taken steps to ban plastic bags.

The answer stems from a 2015 law pushed by State Rep. Dan Shaul, who is also the executive director of the Missouri State Grocers Association. The bill passed over Former Gov. Jay Nixon's veto.

It prohibits municipalities from imposing bans, fees or taxes on those plastic bags.

FOX4 reached out to Schaul to hear more on his thoughts on the legislation, but  he did not respond to our inquiries.

"It's sending the wrong message to the communities, residents, businesses," Cassaundra Ford, with the National Recycling Partnership, said, "I really feel like, if the city wants to do something like that, they should have the opportunity."

Ford said Missouri cities are now powerless to make change on this environmental front to become more eco-friendly.

"It hasn't allowed some of the communities that are interested in banning single-use plastic -- it hasn't allowed them to do that," she said. "So it really has taken a way a lot of that control of what the city wants."

Some cities also want to ban plastic bags because many people mistakenly put them in their curbside recycling bins. Once in that recycling stream, the bags can get caught and damage the equipment at waste management facilities.

"They're not recyclables in the traditional sense, so they just end up causing a lot of problems," Ford said.

On a global level, Ford shared this dire warning about what could happen if the world fails to reduce its use of plastic products: "There was a study that indicated by 2050 we would have more plastic in the ocean than fish at the current rate, so that's something we have to take seriously."

Some state lawmakers trying to fight back against the law.

"We're going to have an environment that I don't know that we'll be able to turn back the clock to protect," State Sen. Jill Schupp said.

Concerned about the environmental and political fallout from Missouri's 2015 law, Schupp introduced a bill in the last legislative session to repeal that measure and give cities the power to ban plastic bags in their communities.

She plans to reintroduce the bill in the upcoming session.

"What I'm hoping is that my colleagues on both sides will recognize that we should allow individual communities to make their own decisions about whether they ban or cut down on the use of plastic bags," Schupp said.

She also vowed to fight Shaul's efforts to expand the 2015 law and prohibit cities from banning Styrofoam containers, which aren't biodegradable and threaten the environment.

"Let's not bury our heads in the sand," Schupp said. "Science is out there, and it says that we need to take good care of the one Earth we have. So let's pay attention. Let's heed that warning, and let's do things to put policies in place that protect the environment so that all of us have a safe and clean earth to inhabit."

Until that happens, experts say each of us can take steps to protect the planet:

  • Carry reusable bags when shopping
  • Don't ask for straws in restaurants
  • Bring your own container for carry-out instead of using Styrofoam ones
  • Recycle

"I think that people don't really think about -- they don't think twice about drinking out of a plastic water bottle and throwing it away," Pembroke student Kate Ellis said. "They need to take actual action."

On the municipal level, Parkville aldermen said they'll discuss a possible ban on Styrofoam containers, and a Kansas City council member is reviewing similar action.

READ: Local Environmentally Friendly Restaurants and Businesses. If your business does something enviormentally friendly with your products and you're not within this list, fill out the form below to get added:

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