Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Plastic Bag Bans Put on Hold Amid Coronavirus Fears

Popular
Plastic Bag Bans Put on Hold Amid Coronavirus Fears
A customer carries his reusable bag after shopping at a supermarket in New York City. New York State, which implemented its plastic bag ban on March 1, has decided to hold off enforcement until at least May 15. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Getty Images

A number of states and cities that implemented bans on plastic bags are putting them on hold over concerns about the cleanliness of reusable bags amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.


Last week, the Massachusetts Food Administration asked Governor Charlie Baker to rescind bans on plastic bags in several towns over concerns that handling the reusable bags poses a threat to grocery store workers. While some viruses are known to survive in reusable shopping bags for up to nine days, there is no evidence so far that the novel coronavirus does, according to Patch.

Massachusetts' neighbors seem to be following a similar trajectory. New York State, which implemented its plastic bag ban on March 1, has decided to hold off enforcement until at least May 15, according to the state's Department of Conservation (DEC).

Despite the delay in enforcement, New York State still encourages shoppers to use reusable bags when shopping for their essentials.

DEC continues to encourage New Yorkers to transition to reusable bags whenever and wherever they shop and to use common sense precautions to keep their reusable bags clean," said Erica Ringewald, spokeswoman for DEC, as the Brooklyn Eagle reported. "New York's ban on single-use plastic bags went into effect as planned on March 1. Retailers across the state are complying."

"Folks, if you are concerned about the cleanliness of your reusable bag, please consider washing it — as you wash clothes or hands. It's good hygiene anyway," tweeted DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos, as the New York Post reported. "New Yorkers are pleased with the bag ban and have no interest in a return to polluting ways."

New Hampshire went in another direction. Out of an abundance of caution, the governor issued an emergency order banning reusable bags, requiring stores to use plastic or paper instead, according to the Boston Herald.

"Our grocery store workers are on the front lines of COVID-19, working around the clock to keep New Hampshire families fed," said Gov. Chris Sununu in a statement. "With identified community transmission, it is important that shoppers keep their reusable bags at home given the potential risk to baggers, grocers and customers."

In Maine, the state's ban on plastic bags was scheduled to go into effect on Earth Day, April 22. However, the novel coronavirus forced lawmakers to reconsider their plans. Last week, Gov. Janet Mills announced that the plastic bag ban's enforcement will wait until Jan. 15, 2021, according to the trade publication Plastics News.

"These emergency measures will support the state's response to the coronavirus and mitigate its spread in Maine," Mills said, as Plastics News reported.

The sudden reversal of policies meant to reduce waste threatens to undo environmental gains various states and cities have made.

"Concerns around food hygiene due to COVID-19 could increase plastic packaging intensity, undoing some of the early progress made by companies towards a circular economy," said a March 12 report from consulting firm BloombergNEF, as Plastics News reported.

Recycling and general waste plastic wheelie bins awaiting collection for disposal in Newport, Rhode Island. Tim Graham / Getty Images

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. According to The National Museum of American History, this popular slogan, with its iconic three arrows forming a triangle, embodied a national call to action to save the environment in the 1970s. In that same decade, the first Earth Day happened, the EPA was formed and Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, encouraging recycling and conservation of resources, Enviro Inc. reported.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The coal-fired Huaneng Power Plant in Huai 'an City, Jiangsu Province, China on Sept. 13, 2020. Costfoto / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

One of the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic was the record drop in greenhouse gas emissions following national lockdowns. But that drop is set to all but reverse as economies begin to recover, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned Tuesday.

Read More Show Less
Trending
A grizzly bear killed an outdoor guide in a rare attack near Yellowstone Park. William Campbell / Corbis / Getty Images

A backcountry guide has died after being mauled by a grizzly bear near Yellowstone National Park.

Read More Show Less
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) re-introduces the Green New Deal in Washington, D.C. on April 20, 2021. Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

In the latest of a flurry of proposed Green New Deal legislation, Reps. Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday introduced the Green New Deal for Cities Act of 2021, a $1 trillion plan to "tackle the environmental injustices that are making us and our children sick, costing us our homes, and destroying our planet."

Read More Show Less
Offshore oil and gas drillers have left more than 18,000 miles of pipelines at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Offshore oil and gas drillers have discarded and abandoned more than 18,000 miles of pipelines on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico since the 1960s, a report from the Government Accountability Office says.

Read More Show Less