Get out your reusable shopping bags again!
It was 10 days before a state of emergency was declared by Governor Baker. A small band of members of Quincy Climate Action Network were spending our Sunday at a Stop and Shop, handing out reusable bags QCAN had purchased to raise awareness of the new prohibition on single-use plastic shopping bags. Despite awareness campaigns by the city and QCAN, many people walking into the store that day were surprised that the single-use bags they were accustomed to getting were now banned by a new city ordinance. What we members of QCAN could not have known on that day was how short-lived the new policy would be. Within two weeks, we’d all be educated on social distancing, PPE, essential workers, and eventually mask-folding techniques.
And almost immediately after that, the single-use plastic bags were back in, and reusable bags were now forbidden by the state. The state was doing what they could to reduce spread of the coronavirus, and reusable plastic bags were identified as a potential way for people to pass an infection from themselves to others at the markets.
Well, several months later, as we reopen businesses and plan a return to school, it’s time to resume the switchover to reusable bags. The CDC is reporting that surface contact is not the main way this virus spreads, and the state has dropped its ban on reusable bags. Still, it is advisable to clean our reusable bags, and fortunately, it’s not hard to do. You can follow the directions on your bag, if it has them. If not, here are some general cleaning guidelines: canvas bags can be cleaned in the washing machine; polypropylene bags (thick reusable plastic bags) and nylon bags can be hand-washed with warm, soapy water and then hung on a line to dry; insulated bags can be wiped down with disinfecting wipes.
As of my last visit, the Stop and Shop no longer gives out single-use plastic grocery bags. Instead, any shoppers who don’t bring their own reusable bags are getting paper bags. We’d like to remind you that paper bags are terrible for the environment — worse in many ways than single use plastic bags. Whenever possible, we should be using our reusable bags. Many supermarket baggers and checkers are perfectly comfortable with reusable bags. If you encounter one who is not, an option is to ask them to put your checked merchandise directly into the shopping cart and bag it yourself in the parking lot.
It’s been a tough year, and there are several months to go. While COVID has seemingly run wild in our nation, the climate crisis continues worsening, threatening the very survival of our species. By taking the small but important step of adopting reusable shopping bags, you can make things better for our planet. So wash up those bags, bring them along with you to the store, and take another step towards the world’s new normal.
Member of Quincy Climate Action Network