20200729-LOC-reusable bag

Gov. Chris Sununu lifts the ban on reusable shopping bags.

Shoppers are once again able to bring their reusable bags into New Hampshire stores, Gov. Chris Sununu announced Monday.

Effective immediately, the governor rescinded the state’s emergency order banning reusable bags, which he instituted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, most grocery stores in the area are allowing reusable bags back in.

This includes locally owned grocery stores Gomarlo’s Shop ‘n’ Save Supermarket in Swanzey and the Monadock Food Co-op in Keene, according to their managers.

Price Chopper, which has a store in Keene, will also welcome reusable bags, spokeswoman Mona Golub said.

However, Hannaford Supermarkets — which has area locations in Keene and Rindge — will allow customers to use bags brought from home only if they bag their own items at checkout, according to spokeswoman Ericka Dodge.

She added that single-use bags will still be available, as well as new reusable bags for purchase. If a new bag is purchased, Dodge said, employees can bag the items.

Hannaford has encouraged reusable bags for a long time, Dodge said, but the company feels it is safer to avoid them for now.

Market Basket and Aldi’s did not respond to requests for comment.

New Hampshire had a reusable bag ban in place since March. Sununu said he imposed the order out of concern that these bags aren’t washed frequently and the novel coronavirus could potentially live on them, putting vulnerable workers at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

As a result, stores were required to supply single-use plastic or paper bags for their customers. This stood in contrast to efforts in recent years nationwide to promote reusable bags out of concern for the environment.

But whether reusable bags pose a legitimate health threat is still up in the air.

While it may be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it, the disease is mainly thought to spread via person-to-person transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other research shows that single-use plastic bags can still harbor viruses and bacteria they pick up during manufacturing, transport, stocking or use.

An April study by the National Institutes of Health shows that the novel coronavirus can stay on plastics for up to three days and on cardboard for up to one day.

If people decide to use their reusable bags while shopping, Sununu — along with area store managers — said people should just make sure they’re washed before bringing them into a business.

“We looked at the latest data, consulted with officials at Public Health and ask individuals to be courteous and respectful to retail/grocery workers by cleaning your reusable bags,” Sununu said Monday on Twitter.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.