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Reusable shopping bags make a COVID-19 comeback after surface contamination fears sparked bans

Reusable shopping bags make a COVID-19 comeback after surface contamination fears sparked bans
[Photo: cottonbro/Unsplash]

Months after concerns about spreading COVID-19 spawned bans on reusable shopping bags, the ubiquitous totes are coming back.

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Leading the pack are Massachusetts and California, which allowed shoppers to once again adorn their shoulders with canvas or polypropylene carryalls—starting Friday and late last month, respectively.

Halting the embrace of green brick-and-mortar consumerism was the worry that germs resided on those single-use bags, which could be spread inadvertently via store counters and employees refilling them with newly purchased groceries and other merchandise.

Environmentalists countered that that was misinformation spread by the plastics industry, still smarting from the recent spate of new laws against disposable plastic bags.

On its website, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the “transmission of novel coronavirus to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not been documented. . . .  Transmission of coronavirus occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through objects and surfaces, like doorknobs, countertops, keyboards, toys, etc. Current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.”

Not everyone is vigilant about washing those reusable bags, emblazoned with a store logo or a cutesy “shop ’til you drop” mantra, residing in car trunks, pocketbooks, and briefcases until needed.

Others that had instituted reusable-bag bans included the State of New Hampshire, while big-box retailer Target asked that customers who want to use these kinds of totes pack them themselves. We reached out to New Hampshire to see if its ban was still in effect and will update this post if we hear back.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, eight states ban disposable shopping bags: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. In addition, some cities have bans, with or without fees, such as Chicago; Seattle; Boulder, Colorado; Portland, Maine; and Washington, D.C.

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