It’s not as if there have not been warnings about the down side of plastic bag bans such as those implemented in communities along South Carolina’s coast and elsewhere. In the name of environmental protection, people are being put at risk in others ways.
Michael Graham, political editor at InsideSources.com, reports that across the country, the bag ban is under fire.
• On Friday, the mayor of Kent, Washington, ordered her city to stop enforcing its single-use plastic bag ban.
• The next night and on the opposite coast, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu went even further, issuing an executive order requiring grocery stores and other retailers to “temporarily transition to use of single-use paper or plastic bags” and away from reusable shopping bags.
• In New York, state Sen. John Flanagan is calling for the state’s plastic-bag ban to be suspended, while Waterville, Maine, Mayor Nick Isgro wants to ban reusable shopping bags for 60 days.
“Whether it’s coronavirus that gets transferred or something else, we know scientifically these things are laden with germs because a lot of people just don’t clean them,” Isgro said.
That’s right, reusable plastic bags are not only more of an environmental problem than single-use bags when they are discarded (as many are), they pose a health threat beyond the coronavirus.
Reporting for greenliving.lovetoknow.com, Georgia-based writer Crystal Schwanke has written of the down sides of banning single-use bags in favor of resusables.
She cites a University of Arizona report that 97% of people using reusable bags are not aware they should wash and sanitize them regularly. Failing to do so poses risks of food poisoning from bacteria, mold, yeast and coliform, as well as risks of bacterial skin infections and allergic reactions.
And the bags could be virus carriers.
Sununu’s decision came soon after the free-market Josiah Barlett Center released a report laying out available data connecting reusable cloth and vinyl bags and reusable water bottles with increased risks of spreading germs and, potentially, the coronavirus. The New Hampshire-based think tank reports multiple studies showing “reusable grocery bags have been shown to pose genuine health risks.”
The Bartlett Center linked a 2018 study by the Loma Linda University School of Public Health using a non-toxic norovirus surrogate sprayed on reusable shopping bags in a grocery store. “They found the virus surrogate everywhere — on food packages, fresh produce, cart handles, checkout touch screens and checkout clerks,” the Barlett Center reported.
Andrew Cline, the Barrette Center’s executive director, told InsideSources’ Graham: “Ill-conceived bans on disposable containers such as plastic shopping bags, water bottles, to-go cups and straws need to be reconsidered along with the many other unnecessary and potentially dangerous regulations this outbreak is exposing. “Research clearly shows that poorly handled reusable shopping bags are like little Ubers for dangerous micro-organisms. Gov. Sununu deserves credit for taking this public health risk seriously when other state and local elected officials would not.”
In addition, Graham cites a 2012 study of San Francisco’s plastic bag ban showing the city experienced a 25% increase in bacteria-related emergency room visits relative to neighboring counties that did not ban plastic bags.
While no one expects the war on plastics to cease amid the threat of global warming, the present biological threat has made clear that not all so-called eco-friendly policies are panaceas.
As Graham concludes: “After years of anti-plastic activism, the risks from the coronavirus outbreak have put single-use plastics back on top.”
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.