In the midst of growing fears of an impending pandemic, on March 21, Gov. Sununu issued an emergency order to temporarily transition to new plastic or paper grocery bags, saying reusable bags pose a risk of spreading the virus. At the time such a measure seemed prudent when considering the high potential of viral exposure to grocery store clerks.

Although many states had initiated or had in place bans on the use of single-use plastic bags, the concern for the health of service workers has overridden the environmental damage these bags cause.

The Plastics Industry Association quickly lobbied the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare these bans pose a public health threat. Their campaign has been successful. Many states have put their bans on hold.

And yet after numerous studies, no scientific evidence has emerged that shows reusable bags can spread the coronavirus. Washing fabric bags or wiping down vinyl reusables almost entirely eliminates existing bacteria. Some states allow reusable bags as long as the customer packs her own bags.

Hand washing is still a top method for stopping the spread of the virus. The CDC has recently revised its guidelines to say “the virus does not spread easily by touching contaminated surfaces …”

The biggest threat to shoppers is an infected person in the store, not reusable bags. Since July 1, Vermont has proceeded with their plastic bag ban. It is time New Hampshire followed suit. We will still be safe.


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