By: Keeba Smith

This day and age, green is definitely the way to go!  Mother Earth needs us to work harder to preserve her natural beauty.  One way to go green is to use reusable shopping bags.  Using reusable shopping bags saves from unnecessary waste and trash buildup.  The average American is estimated to use at least six shopping bags per week.  With a population of roughly 300 million people, that means an estimated 1.8 billion bags are used and discarded in America every single week.

REASONS TO USE REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS

  • It takes plastic bags 15 to 1,000 years to break down because they are not biodegradable. What does biodegradable mean?  It is something that breaks down or decays naturally without any special scientific treatment and can therefore be thrown away without causing pollution.
  • Most recycling facilities will not take single-use plastic bags because the cost to recycle them outweighs their value. They can also cause damages to the machines giving the recycle managers costly headaches.
  • They are damaging to many animals when they are left floating in the sea. Each year it is estimated the one million birds, 100,000 turtles, and countless other sea animals die each year from ingesting plastic.  The animals think the floating bags are edible sea life such as jellyfish and plankton.  The plastic blocks the digestive tract causing the animals to starve to death.
  • The bags are lightweight and tend to fly away from the landfill making for cluttered beaches and streets. California spends more than $300 million on coastal litter cleanup every year.
  • It takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce the plastic bags that the U.S. uses every year.
  • One person using reusable bags over their lifetime would remove more than 22,000 plastic bags from the environment.

CLEANING REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS

While the most important thing to remember about reusable shopping bags is taking them with you to the store.  Remembering to clean them is the second.  Using reusable shopping bags are good for the environment, however, if they are not washed and cleaned properly, they may be bad for you and your family’s health.  Reusable bags can house dangerous bacteria that can lead to foodborne illnesses.

Three ways to keep your family safe

  • Clean- Wash bags after each use. Bags should be washed in hot water and detergent.  To clean insulated shopping bags, wipe them with disinfecting wipes after each use (especially if you used it to carry meat).
  • Separate Foods- Use separate bags for raw meat, seafood and produce. Label the bags to avoid confusion.  This can help reduce the risk of foodborne illness derived from cross-contamination.
  • Storage- After washing, make sure the bags are dry before storing.  Help prevent bacteria by storing your bags at home in a cool, dry environment where air can circulate.

REUSABLE BAGS DOS AND DON’TS

Dos

  • Consider purchasing reusable hemp bags because hemp has naturally anti-mold and antimicrobial properties.
  • Use insulated bags for meats. This will help prevent leakage.
  • Either hand-wash or machine-wash your bags to reduce 99 percent of harmful bacteria.

Don’ts

  • Never use for anything other than carrying food. Gym clothes and other things should not be carried in reusable shopping bags.
  • Bag should not be left in car. Whether unwashed or clean, the heat is a perfect incubator for bacteria to multiply.  When not in use, store your bags in the pantry or a cool, dry place.
  • Clean reusable shopping bags should not be placed in the baby carrier section of the grocery cart. That is the most contaminated area of the cart and bacteria can transfer to your bags.

CITY/COUNTIES AND STATES WITH PLASTIC BAG BANS AND FEES

In August 2014, California became the first state to impose a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at large retail stores.  Before it had taken effect, a referendum forced the issue to a vote on the November 2016 ballot.  It was known as Proposition 67, which passed with 52 percent of the vote allowing the ban to take place.

In Hawaii’s most populated counties, non-biodegradable plastic bags or bags with less than 40 percent recycled material are prohibited.  Bans in Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii counties took effect between 2011 and 2013.  Honolulu became the last major county to approve the ban in 2015.

In 2009, the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) banned the distribution of disposable, non-recyclable plastic bags and set a 5 cents fee for distribution of all other disposable bags.

List of cities with the Plastic Bag Bans

  • Austin, TX
  • Cambridge, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seattle, WA

List of cities/counties with Plastic Bag Fees

  • Boulder, CO
  • Brownsville, TX
  • Montgomery County, MD
  • New York, NY
  • Portland, ME
  • Washington, D.C

EVERYONE SHOULD USE REUSABLE BAGS

Our world deserves better.  Using reusable shopping bags will help reduce pollution and hopefully help reduce some of the harmful effects that have already happened.  With so many cities and states working to ban one-time use plastic bags, it is not only helpful to the environment to use reusable bags.  It is helpful to our economy.  Go Green! Use reusable shopping bags and remember to make sure they are clean.

 

Resources

https://www.reusethisbag.com/25-reasons-to-go-reusable.php

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/why-its-important-to-clean-your-reusable-shopping-bags-101617.html

http://www.cleaninginstitute.org/clean_living/cleaning_reusable_bags.aspx

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