Reusable Shopping Bags Might be Great for Environment, But Also Good for Spreading Disease and Bacteria


TRENTON-Studies have shown that while reusable grocery bags may be great for the economy, they’re not so great for the health and safety of those who use them

Now, Trenton lawmakers are trying to reverse the trend to cut down on single-use plastic bags amid the coronavirus outbreak, where New Jersey is second in the nation in cases, behind New York City.

A Trenton lawmaker was motivated by a sign he saw in a local grocery store and is now fighting against the state’s ban on single use plastic bags.

New Jersey Republican lawmaker Hal Wirths praised the store’s move as studies have shown that the bags harbor dangerous bacteria and can cross-contaminate other surfaces. He also said legislation that bans single-use plastic and paper bags, as well as Styrofoam takeout containers, should be stopped out of a concern for the public’s health. The bill (S864), which passed the Senate on March 5, is currently waiting to be heard in an Assembly committee.

“This is reckless legislation that could bring unintended health consequences, especially now, but also in the future,” said Wirths (R-Sussex). “We may not be able to predict another pandemic, but we can take measures to protect the public’s health.”

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health researchers shows the coronavirus could live up to two to three days on plastic or steel. Another study found that it could can stay on surfaces for as long as nine days.

“We know New Jerseyans are dying from the coronavirus, we know the virus can live on surfaces, and that people have become ill because of reusable grocery bags,” said Wirths. “What remains questionable are the actual environmental benefits of these bags. We cannot prioritize anything over people’s lives.”

The actions taken by the supermarket reinforce a message sent yesterday by Assemblyman John DiMaio, who urged food stores to temporarily ban the use of reusable bags.

“Reusable bags can inadvertently carry disease from home to the market. We don’t need to be risking people’s lives any more than is already happening,” said DiMaio (R-Warren). “Using plastic and paper now should probably be a requirement, not a choice.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the number of coronavirus cases in the state jumped to 3,675 with 44 deaths.

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