San Francisco bans reusable grocery bags, should you be using them?

Embed from Getty Images

Many of us have seen the photos of empty freeways and deserted downtowns. We’ve read the reports about the Venice canals running cleaner than they have been in 60 years. I can personally attest that air quality in Los Angeles is the best I’ve ever seen it. In many ways, the global pandemic that has led to people across the globe staying home has done wonders for the environment. However, we have another situation on our hands now, some of the measures we’ve taken to help reduce waste may be harmful to our health. Specifically: reusable shopping bags. Basically, those bags you keep collecting and shoving in your trunk have turned fully against you by increasing your chances of picking up COVID-19 at your local grocery store. So much so, that San Francisco has banned them. Read that again, Liberal central, San Francisco, has banned the use of reusable shopping bags in public markets. So what is the answer? Plastic bags… and plenty of them.

In the latest sign of how dramatically the coronavirus pandemic is altering the social landscape, even the liberal San Francisco Bay Area this week banned reusable grocery bags as a sanitary measure, dismaying recycling advocates who say durable sacks should still be allowed at stores.

The provision was among a host of lifestyle changes imposed Tuesday by six Bay Area counties in a rewrite of their first-in-the-nation March 16 order that required millions of residents to shelter at home. The counties have been credited with taking early actions that may have helped slow the spread in California.

The rule appears to be the most stringent coronavirus-related restriction placed on reusable bags in California, which has banned single-use plastic bags since 2016. California allows the 70 or so jurisdictions whose local bans preceded the state ban, including most of the Bay Area, Los Angeles County and Sacramento County, to preempt state law.

California has aggressively moved toward reusable containers in an effort to reduce plastic consumption. Gov. Gavin Newsom last year signed the nation’s first state law banning hotels from using small single-use plastic containers for shampoo and other toiletries. State lawmakers have also worked on bills that would phase out single-use plastic by 2030 in California.

But the coronavirus has altered the state’s environmental march. Bottled water has flown off store shelves, while some fear the coronavirus will hinder efforts to build high-density housing near transit. Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee, which have coffee shops across Northern California, stopped refilling customers’ mugs earlier this month in favor of paper cups.

The plastics industry has lobbied on the federal level and in New York, New Jersey and other states, asserting that often-unwashed reusable bags are hotbeds for the coronavirus, which early research suggests can remain on surfaces. But so far, there hasn’t been evidence of industry lobbying in California.

Recycling advocates said they would prefer a statewide policy that says customers can still bring their bags into stores, but grocery employees don’t have to fill them.

“This fear of bringing reusable bags into the stores is misguided, but I certainly understand why store employees don’t want to handle somebody else’s things,” said Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste. “I wouldn’t have any expectation that somebody is going to put my groceries into my bag that I brought from home.”

[From Politico]

“The plastics industry has lobbied on the federal level and in New York, New Jersey and other states, asserting that often-unwashed reusable bags are hotbeds for the coronavirus,” I wonder exactly how long after the first case was reported in the US did lobbyists everywhere leap to profit from this? However, in this case, are they right? According to this Huffington Post article CB sent me, yes. Food safety experts say we should be careful of anything that is being touched by others. As scientists firm up the numbers as to how long the virus really does live on surfaces, it’s best to err on the side of caution and assume it can live anywhere. Not only should you put your food in plastic, single use bags, you should use the ones provided at the store to grab any produce you want to see closer. And take advantage of those cart wipes they offer and thoroughly wipe down your cart and anything someone else might have touched. But what do we do with all this extra plastic? You can’t exactly run them through the washing machine, but you can wash them in hot water and soap. Plastic bags can help prevent freezer burn if it is wrapped tight enough around that bulk ground beef you bought. All those cute little trash cans around your house could use a liner so you don’t have to touch those tissues you are supposed to sneeze into. You can use them in place of gloves if you are wiping down delivery boxes or whatever else you bring in from your porch. Basically, find a way to reuse them that makes sense.

Back to San Francisco, are they going too far by issuing a ban on reusable bags? Much like Gov Cuomo in New York, California’s Governor Gavin Newsom (the former mayor of San Francisco) took the reins of his state’s handling of COVID-19. His measures have been quick and decisive, and he has no problem going even further if it means keeping Californians safe. Wednesday he officially closed schools for the remainder of the school year. I am totally behind the decision, but it still breaks my heart. (However, the fact that it pissed Devin Nunes off eased some of the pain.) But, as Politico pointed out in another article, the Bay Area did it – they bent the curve with all of their measures. I know it’s still going to get worse before it gets better, but there were less reported cases than anticipated. This, along with the efforts of Gov. Inslee in Washington that have helped curb their numbers, has all eyes on the West Coast. Forgive my humble-bragging but honestly, when all y’all are looking at us, it’s usually because we’re living up to our rep as the Land of Fruits and Nuts.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Photo credit: Getty Images and Instagram

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

94 Responses to “San Francisco bans reusable grocery bags, should you be using them?”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. OriginalLala says:

    Our local stores (Gatineau/Ottawa in Canada) no longer allow resusable bags during the pandemic, we can either put the items directly in the cart and take it out to the car, or take plastic bags. We’ve stopped going to the grocery store (doing direct pickups instead) so we havent had to deal with this issue… surreal times..

    • (TheOG) jan90067 says:

      Trader Joe’s is using paper. My local Ralph’s (Krogers) is using plastic. They’re not allowing you to reuse. My sister brought us groceries today, and after unpacking (and washing!!) I took them down to the recycling bin. At least it’s *something* if we can’t use our own.

      My sister sent me this; I saw something similar yesterday; it’s like Mother Nature is sending us a message (Can’t say I didn’t think this, too!). It’s called “The Virus Letter”

  2. Lucy2 says:

    The town next to mine, where the majority of stores are, reversed their ban as well. Just during this time, so I hope it will go back in effect once things are better.

  3. Audrey says:

    I don’t understand the problem. Just bring your own bag and bag your own groceries.

    • EB says:

      Where I live, the grocery stores have installed plexiglass screens around the cashiers and for obvious reasons, customers can’t come around the back of the screen and help bag. I love my Trader Joe’s totes (cheap and they hold up to repeated washing!) but I will follow the stores’ lead and accept plastic bags if it helps reduce spread and makes the employees feel safer.

      • Amy Too says:

        In West Michigan, meijer stores have put plexiglass up as a barrier between customers and cashiers. They’re also not allowing store employees to bag into reusable bags. I had my reusable bags on the conveyer belt and the cashier picked them up and handed them back to me, saying she couldn’t bag into them, but I could. She had me come off the side/behind the plexiglass, which honestly isn’t very big and I’m not entirely sure how it helps since people don’t actually spend their whole time at checkout standing directly behind it, and then she handed me, hand to hand, all of my groceries and I bagged them into the reusable bags.

        I don’t see how that’s helping or preventing the spread. She touched my bags, I touched my bags. She touched all my groceries, I touched all my groceries. In order to do that we were no longer separated by the plexiglass. This was probably on day 1 of the reusable bag ban and the plexiglass being up and I don’t think that store employees or customers really understood the why of it or how it would help. I feel like there needs to be more education about WHY they’re implementing these rules because my cashier was acting like it was just a weird rule that was making her job more difficult and the work arounds being offered exposed us to each other more.

        I made the decision to bag into my own reusables really quickly in the moment, thinking that since my county has also discontinued recycling for the foreseeable future, that I didn’t want to get 20+ plastic bags that I wouldn’t be able to recycle. I think next time, I will just use the store’s paper bags, though.

        At my grocery store, no one is social distancing anyways. I saw two families who apparently knew each other but hadn’t seen each other in awhile run up and hug each other and then stand and chat for 10 minutes. They were also out of sanitizing wipes for the carts and were having an employee spray and wipe down your cart with a bottle of sanitizing solution. But this caused a huge group of people congregating at the entrance of the store, not 6 feet apart, all crowding around this poor guy waiting to get their carts wiped. And in the aisles, people weren’t giving space to each other. People crowd you, push past you, lean over you to get something off the shelf, and even the store employees were leaning over me to stock or organize shelves. They kept playing this message every 2 minutes reminding people to keep 6 feet away from each other and employees, but no one was. I tried very hard and would wait to approach the apples or bread or whatever until the person currently looking at it moved on. But no one else really was. They’ve put markers on the floor of the check out lanes that look like they’re maybe 3-4 feet apart to remind people to give each other space, but people ignored those, too.

        It makes me so anxious to go to the store. I wear gloves but don’t have a mask. I find myself breathing very shallowly, attempting not to breathe in the air of the store, and then I feel faint. I’m trying to shop for 10 days-2 weeks worth of groceries at a time so I’m in the store for quite a long time, and I hate it. It takes me days to get over the anxious feeling and finally start breathing normally again.

    • Erinn says:

      I feel like you might be missing the point. The ban is because bringing your own bags could spread germs more quickly.

    • Swack says:

      It’s fine if you are packing your own groceries. But many stores have people packing your groceries and it is to keep them safe. I go to Aldi’s (pack your own) and I wait until I get to the car to pack the groceries. I don’t want to be next to someone else and if you abide by the 6 foot distance only about 3 people can be packing at a time.

      • Arpeggi says:

        But then the issue isn’t the bags but the fact that stores still ask staff to pack bags. Because that where the risk is: having a packer increases contacts/proximity between individuals and thus the risk of transmission increases regardless of the bags used.

    • vanna says:

      WHY aren’t you bagging your own groceries?? This is an American phenomenon, I swear everywhere in Europe we bag our own stuff.

      • Desdemona says:

        It is a really good question. We bag our own things, and I wash my bags with bleach after going shopping… I don’t want another person to decide which product goes into which bag… Oh… American phenomenon indeed…

      • styla says:

        In Europe you shop several times a week and buy what you need. In North America, people shop once a week and buy more than what they need as they often have pantrys, multiple fridges and deep freezers. Its an amount thing. A bagger moves through everything faster while the buyer pays. Its not about laziness its about efficiency and moving people through quickly.

      • Bettyrose says:


        In the last 5 years self-bagging has taken hold in the U.S. I’m so accustomed to it now that it seems bizarre we ever had others touching our food like that, but it was a job that many people held. Now we can use a cashier and bag our own groceries or use self check out where only one staff member oversees 6-10 cashier stations that previously would have employed cashiers and baggers.

        ETA: I see others sharing different U.S. experiences but in CA at stores like TJs, Sprouts, WFs, even Safeway, self bagging is pretty standard.

      • Greta G says:

        I am a 65-year-old cancer survivor. I have severe back issues. It exhausts me going to the store, picking out my groceries, putting them in the cart, unloading onto the belt &and, by the time I pay, I can’t physically bag the groceries because I still have to unload them into my car & unload & put the groceries away when I get home. Have a little charity. It costs you nothing but a little extra time & a bagger might just help me get through a day.

    • Kelly says:

      Yeah, it’s pretty sad the idea of packing your own groceries and washing your own bag (granted, some materials can’t be properly washed) seems so unthinkable for so many Americans. Ruthless consumerism is so ingrained in our culture.

      • Cath says:

        @Kelly and @vanna yep same – I was reading the story going ‘but why’ as I couldn’t understand at what point someone else would touch my bags… because I’m so used to just bagging my own purchases. (based in the UK btw)

    • Some chick says:

      This is what I do.

      The grocery store near me uses the thinnest bags which often shred just on the drive home. I don’t want them.

      The last time I went, two different people touched every single thing I purchased. They had a sneeze guard, which is good, and they wipe down the belt before letting you put anything on it.

      I am from California (but living out of state at this time) so I am used to bagging my own damn groceries. It bothers me more that for some reason two people have to touch all of my stuff – and then half of the time they put it into a different cart, which I do not see anyone wiping down – then I need to use a third cart to accomplish the actual bagging. FFS. STOP TOUCHING MY STUFF.

      I was already a semi germaphobe. JUST STOP TOUCHING MY STUFF!

      I do not need ten bazillion plastic bags in my life.

      Also, who is to say that “no one ever” washes them. Untrue. Maybe you don’t, maybe you want all of those damn bags. I have way more sideeye for people who won’t stand back.

      I’m in a state with a relatively low infection rate (so far) and I only go to the grocery once a week. I do not want their pathetic, polluting bags. Which they double. It’s pointless.

      Just have people bag for themselves. It’s not that complicated.

      I already touched it once! Just let me have my damn food and box wine! Stop touching it!

      And FFS let me go around you!

  4. emmy says:

    Someone needs to explain this further to me. The only person touching that bag is me. How am I endangering anyone? That would mean that the clothes I’m wearing are potentially hazardous as well. I am all for being careful, not making daily trips to the supermarket, not randomly touching all kinds of products I probably won’t purchase etc. But … my bag???

    • Astrid says:

      In the stores where I sometimes do my shopping, the reusable bags are given to the person that “bags” the groceries for you.

    • FHMom says:

      How long does Covid last on clothing? I haven’t worried about my clothing until now.

      • emmy says:

        Please don’t worry. I was just trying to follow that thought of “Your bag will end you.”, I did not mean to start that conversation. From what I’ve read, the discussion centers on hard surfaces, not on cloth or paper etc.

      • Arpeggi says:

        There’s no need to worry about your clothes unless you work in an environment with lots of potentially sick people: nursing home, medical clinic, etc. In those cases, you should have separate work clothes and “civilians” clothes (and it should always be the case). But going for a walk or going to the grocery? Not really a hazard; even if one or 20 infectious particles caught on your jeans at some point, you’re not going to put your pants in your mouth. You’ve never worried about catching gastro, measles or a flu from your clothes, right?

    • Noodle says:

      @emmy, I think the idea is that grocery workers are bagging your groceries for you, touching your (possibly) unsanitary bags. I live in a plastic-bag-ban community, and I am fastidious about washing and bleaching my grocery bags, which are canvas (Trader Joe’s canvas bags are amazing). The reusable “plastic” bags stores sell for .10 cannot be adequately cleaned, especially in today’s virus-conscious climate. I use those to gather my recyclables now, since there is no re-using them. In Target the other day I tried to bag my own groceries using my own, freshly washed canvas bags, and was yelled at by an employee. I get that everyone is on edge and can’t know how clean I keep my bags, but it does seem a bit extreme to swing from “plastic bags are the devil to our environment” to “plastic bags will save us from the virus” quite so dramatically.

      • Desdemona says:

        Mine are reusable plastic ( they last 4 to 5 years, for me) . I leave them soaking submerged in bleach and water for half an hour.. I doubt the virus survives that…

    • LadyMTL says:

      From what I understood the issue is that in a lot of the grocery stores there’s someone bagging your food in the reusable bag and therefore possibly contaminating it…? Using a plastic bag would mean that you’d throw it out afterwards and not spread the virus. (Of course, that’s assuming you don’t reuse the plastic bag, which would be counterproductive if it is contaminated.)

      Personally I bag my own groceries on the few occasions I don’t bring my cart on wheels, and if someone else does it for me I wipe down the cart / the handle / bag, and so on.
      I’d suggest people wash their reusable bags, or if they’re that worried about it throw them out and buy cotton or canvas ones that can go in the washing machine.

      • Lady D says:

        Where I live, we have been bagging our own groceries for years. None of the big grocery stores pack your food for you. They touch your stuff when they run it through the scanner, then it gets moved to you for bagging. Sometimes I really miss having someone to pack my groceries so I can grab them and go, but c’est la vie.

    • Arpeggi says:

      You are entirely right. It’s not scientifically sound when you do a proper risk assessment but it feels reassuring so that’s why people do it. Fear of coronavirus is turning some people into Howard Hughes; one of the first thing you learn when making risk assessment for biohazards is that being overly cautious and use more protection than necessary is just as dangerous as being too lax.

      I understand why you’d refuse that customers bring their reusable containers if an employee has to do the refills (we can usually bring tupperwares to have our meat/fish/cheese packed into instead of using styrofoam): it requires too many contacts between employee and customers. A bag that you only will handle? Very low risk for staff, other customers and yourself

    • emmy says:

      Guys, thanks for the replies. Honestly, I hadn’t thought about the fact that in the US, someone bags your stuff. We don’t do that here in Germany. You handle your own things, that’s not a service we have. But honestly, wouldn’t that service have been discontinued weeks ago anyway? Just one more person to get close to. Here they put up acrylic glas so you don’t even breathe on the cashier and you’re supposed to pay with your card (we love our cash so that’s a trip for some elderly folks).

      It’s really hard to judge which rules are good rules and which are just crazy and ineffective at this point. I’m trying to listen to experts AND use common sense. But it’s not easy.

      • Erinn says:

        I mean – let’s say you have sneezed or coughed around your reusable bag. Then you put that bag down on the counter while bagging your groceries – you’re potentially spreading it to the counter. Then the next person who puts their things down on the counter is then potentially picking up the previous person’s germs. I assume that’s some of their logic as well.

      • emmy says:

        That’s … an interesting scenario. Same thing happens as soon as I touch a plastic bag though? I can’t do these crazy puzzles, it’s too much. I keep my distance, I wash my hands, and stay home in general.

      • Amy Too says:

        Erinn, I worry about all the plastic bags that are hanging out next to the cashier. They’ve been touched by the people who make the bags, ship the bags, deliver the bags, and then set the bags up on the little stand or carousel. Then the cashier touches those plastic bags. And all the people who shop in the store and go through that check out lane are breathing on the bags, maybe couching or sneezing on the bags. How is a plastic bag that’s been hanging on hooks in the open air of a check out lane for hours or days somehow less contaminated than my reusable bag that lived in my house, is only touched by me, and only comes out to the grocery store once a week? I feel like this precaution may not be one that actually makes the most sense or cuts down on a huge amount of risk. I’m also able to wash my reusable bags. And I’ve heard that the virus lives on plastic longer than cloth or canvas or even paper bags.

        I’m especially angry about being forced to use plastic bags since my county has shut down recycling until the pandemic is over. They don’t want recycling plant workers having to touch and sort people’s bottles and containers and stuff, so they’re asking us to put our recycling in garbage bags and it will just be incinerated. I hate that. It seems like there would be a way to safely recycle? Couldn’t they wait 2 weeks to sort the recycling? I don’t think the virus can survive for more than a few days on surfaces. I just wonder if the cost/benefit analysis has actually been calculated properly or if some of these ideas are just things that sound good but aren’t actually that effective.

      • Desdemona says:

        @erinn in Portugal the cashier’s counter(where you put the groceries) is desinfected in between clients by the cashier. Let’s imagine I’m doing my shopping. The following person can only put his / her groceries on the counter after I’ve paid and left and the cashier has desinfected it…

    • Lady Keller says:

      This virus seems to be able to live on surfaces for a long time. If you sneezed or coughed near your bag, or touched it with contaminated hands then it could potentially be spreading germs. Most people I see using them put the bags on the grocery bagging platform where every single customer who comes after is now putting their groceries and bags where your bag has been. I’ve read more than one article about how easily these bags can transmit bacteria like e coli or salmonella if they aren’t washed.

      I went out grocery shopping yesterday and I wore extra clothes on top of my outfit (still very cold where I am so not a big deal). As soon as I got home I stripped my outer layer of clothes off. I rubbed up against the shopping cart, I came into contact with the shelves when I moved over to let someone pass me, and who knows what else my clothing touched. I have a friend who is a nurse who has told me that a lot of hospital workers are stripping in their backyards or garages so they aren’t wearing contaminated clothing into their homes. It may seem like overkill but I dont want to take unnecessary chances.

      Also – I’m very disappointed to hear that there are plastic industry lobbyists. When this virus ends I hope we go back to ways of eliminating plastics and single use products. Just make sure to wash your plastic grocery bags regularly.

      • emmy says:

        It’s not clear how long it can survive or, if it survives, how long it’s still infectious. But the conversation centers around hard surfaces.

        People need to decide for themselves how far they will go for their own peace of mind. I haven’t heard any expert mention that my jeans might be contaminated after a trip to the supermarket. I can’t be that level of careful, it would drive me absolutely crazy. I’ve already become a hermit whose hands are cracking from all the soap and disinfectant.

      • Ang says:

        It can live on surfaces, especially plastics, for a lot longer than average for viruses; weeks to months possibly. It also stays alive in very cold temperatures but heat is seeming to be a better deterrent.

      • emmy says:

        Weeks or months? I have not heard or read that anywhere, that seems extremely unlikely.

      • (TheOG) jan90067 says:

        I know I’m being paranoid, but when I’ve had to go down to get the mail, or the garage where the recycling bins are (I live in a condo), I change to “outside” shoes (well, slippers lol), put on the cloth mask I just got (before this, I put a thick towel rag around my nose/mouth held in place with an elasticized headband), disposable gloves and go as quickly as I can. When I come in, I put the mail (which I collect in a small cardboard box, into the sink in the bar in the den to sit for a day or two, and I wash my hands well.

        Once ever two weeks, I take the cars out to drive around the block to keep the battery from dying. Put on the mask, gloves, and outside slippers. When I step back in the door, the shoes go back into the corner, and I strip off in the entry hall, throw the clothes in the washer immediately, and run into the shower.

        Probably don’t have to do the showering bit… but it’s fear…..fear of all we *don’t* know about this plague. And it’s scary as sh!t.

  5. EscapedConvent says:

    Thank you, Hecate. I learned some important things from this post. I am so confused about what I should and should not touch.

  6. FC says:

    As a germaphobe with OCD, those bags have always grossed me out.

    • Some chick says:

      Great. Don’t use them.

      I love my reuseable bags because I too am a germaphobe, and I know where they have been.

      Who knows who breathed on the store bags before I got there? Maybe that family that’s touching everything and walking down the middle of the aisle.

      (Then again, when I get home it’s into the pajamas right away – not for sanitary reasons, but because we do not wear pajamas outside the house. LOL.)


  7. Jellybean says:

    I hate to tell you this, but I have a set of clothes I use when I go to the shops. If I didn’t have somewhere outside to hang them up and change into them, then I would wash them every time. I only need them once a week so it isn’t a problem. I don’t worry with my dog walking clothes, because I don’t have to touch anything and there are very few people around.

    Sorry, this was a reply for Emmy (4.) but something glitched when I pressed reply. Wierd, it has never done that before.

    • Lucy2 says:

      The nurse told me the same thing early on in this, if you’re out amongst other people, change your clothes when you get home, and if you can, wash them right away. Better safe than sorry.

    • emmy says:

      Hey, if this is what you do, I won’t tell you to stop. Honestly, who the hell knows at this point? I live in a big city and use public transportation (usually). You will never see me wear my “outside clothes” at home. I take them off immediately because I see what’s going on out there and who did what on that seat before me. I’m not transfering that to my couch.

      I do think that if the virus could be transmitted that way, the situation would be so much worse that it already is. But again, people do what they have to do.

      • Esmom says:

        I was the same way when I took public transportation every day. I’d never sit on my couch in the same thing I wore while sitting on a gross bus or train seat.

        And now after I go grocery shopping, I do change out of the pants I wore and hang my jacket outside for awhile.

      • Jellybean says:

        I work with children and have to go in on a rota basis, We were told to do this after work and I followed it through to shopping. I am not going to argue with government advice, at least not when it is erring on the side of caution. I hadn’t seen any discussion on reuse bags, but that was a decision I had already made for myself. The only limitation that has really irritated me so far is not being able to get in the car to take my dog for a walk.

  8. Happy-Fat-Mama says:

    plastics lobby?

    “The plastic shopping bag has long been hunted by state and local policymakers pushing for its extinction. But still, it thrives, thanks to the deep-pocketed chemical industry that birthed it and the political influence of retailers and restaurants. Only eight states ban single-use plastic bags — nearly twice as many have laws protecting them.” – Politico, Jan 13 2020, “Plastic bags have lobbyists. And they’re still winning.”

    We need to stay safe. My question is when and where well-funded and powerful interests are taking advantage of our legitimate desire for health during a pandemic?

  9. Lightpurple says:

    Boston and other Massachusetts cities have reversed their plastic bag ban and the state is recommending against the reusable bags for the time being

  10. Arpeggi says:

    It’s kind of an overkill and it won’t help honestly. Our grocery stores in Montreal will have us put our stuff on the counter and bag it on the other side: I’m the only person who’ll be touching my bags. Truth is, you’re far more likely going to get food poisoning from unwashed bags (if you have meat/fish juice that have leaked in it at some point) than coronavirus.

    Yes, studies have shown that in controlled environments, infectious viral particles remain infectious for up to a few days but, we have to remember that we don’t live in a controlled environment: enzymes that break proteins and strings of nucleic acids are also found on every surfaces possible and they’ll contribute to the inactivation of viral particles and the virus can’t reproduce outside of a host so the number of infectious particles found on a surface will decrease with time.

    The biggest risk of contamination , and by far, remains close contact with an infected individual, not with surfaces. That pile of plastic bags will continuously be touched by a bunch of people while they are bagging their stuff: they take some and you touch the pile right after them: the risk of transmission is higher than if using your own bags.

    • Dara says:

      I’ve embraced every recommendation, and even started doing a few of them before they became public policy, but this is the first one that does feel a little over the top. I doubt it will really help lower transmission in a large population, but if the stores are doing it to protect their workers, then fine. I’d much rather do what they ask than have them close for the duration. It just feels like small beer compared to stay at home orders and travel restrictions. It won’t do enough to make an impact as long as there is free travel between places with strict stay at home policies and places that just can’t be bothered.

  11. Mellie says:

    My store banned these as well, my friend, who is a 4th grade teacher, taught her entire class to crochet strips of plastics bags to make ‘plarn’. She is using the plarn to make mats for the homeless. It takes quite a while to make one mat, but one mat uses several hundred bags, so I guess I’ll save a stockpile for her and her students….for next school year since schools here are closed for the year now 🙁 Poor kids.

    • Noodle says:

      @Mellie, that’s a cool way to reuse the plastic bags. Not only does it reuse the plastic resources, it helps the homeless. And it gives children something to do that will benefit others. I am going to look for a YouTube video on how to do this and put my kids to work today!

      • Mellie says:

        That’s how she learned to do it too….there are some ladies from Nevada who make them and they have a video on you tube

  12. Truthiness says:

    Why isn’t the answer paper bags? Or bag your own groceries of course. Paper bags will compost and not end up endangering ocean wildlife.

    • Swack says:

      Most stores where I live have both and you are given a choice of which to use.

    • Sarah says:

      Paper bags are actually more deleterious to the environment than plastic bags, when considering not only the end life of the product, but the water and resources necessary to create them. Reusable is *always* best from an environmental standpoint.

  13. Sean says:

    I have fabric reusable bags I use for groceries. I’ve been making sure to bring them with me when I go grocery shopping since this began. The thought of having to use the plastic bags after others have thumbed through them grosses me out.

    I also spray the cloth bags with Lysol when I get home. I’d throw them in the wash but they have plastic bottoms.

  14. Esmom says:

    My area doesn’t have a ban on plastic bags but I always bring my own. I have opted to get the stores’ bags the past couple weeks, though. Most stores around here are still letting people use their own bags, except for Trader Joes. I’m assuming others will soon follow suit.

  15. Catwoman says:

    My local grocery will allow you to use your own bags but will not put your groceries in them for you. If you want them bagged they will gladly do it for you using plastic bags. Seems like a pretty good approach to me.

  16. Keira says:

    Not sure why disposable bags equals plastic bags, in our new reality? How about paper?

    So glad I live in the bay area. I wish everyone well.

    • Kate says:

      Yeah this is my question too. F@ck plastic bags, I hate them and wish they would go away forever.

  17. Celebitchy says:

    So I accept the plastic bags now and just set them aside for 10 days. Then, after that, I use them as my bathroom trash can liners. I figure they’re safe after a week and a half. Of course I used resuable bags before.

    • Esmom says:

      I use them for trash can liners, too. Also to scoop out my cat’s litter box and throw away the contents.

      • Lady D says:

        I have three litter boxes that get cleaned twice a day. I depend on plastic bags for the waste. I use two a day, I really don’t have another option for the litter. If anyone has any ideas, I’d love to hear them. I did use little pails beside each litter box but they stink after awhile and you can’t really get the smell out. I can’t use the scented kitty litter, I’d honestly rather smell the cat crap. I don’t understand how the manufacturers or users of that stuff don’t understand the damage to their cats, having to breathe in that perfume. I don’t think the makers were thinking about cats when they created that raunchy smelling stuff.

      • Swack says:

        Use them for scooping cat litter also!

      • Audrey says:

        Lady D – have you tried scoopable Pine litter? I love it. No perfume and it absorbs smells.

    • Noodle says:

      I’m using mine to collect recyclables in the kitchen now. It’s not an ideal situation, but now that we can’t use our canvas/reusable bags, it’s at least middle-ground.

    • Reece says:

      Growing up we used the plastic bags from the stores as trash bags in my house. So when everything went reusable years ago I didn’t even know where the trash bags were in the store. I remember circling the same area over and over until I found them because I didn’t want to ask the workers inside where the trash bags were. lol

      Because I’m forever forgetful I still use them for collecting the recycling and liners around the house.

  18. Leah says:

    Used plastic bags yesterday for shopping and had to toss it all out. Usually I bring my own cloth bags but not in these times.

  19. VKES says:

    Yes. We are still in a climate crisis as well. Most fabric bags are washable, or you can set them somewhere for a couple days to let the virus die. It doesn’t live as long on soft surfaces as it does on like stainless steel.

    • Arpeggi says:

      And you can still wipe the hard surface with a detergent and a washable cloth… I understand why some industries would want to make us believe that single-use, disposable items are somehow safer/cleaner, but that’s not true, it’s just marketing.

  20. C-Shell says:

    My county accepts single use plastic bags for recycling (separately from all other recyclables), so I routinely get my groceries packed in them, often bagging my own. I used to take my reusable bags into the store, but had to stop when I had to get my shoulders repaired — they get heavy really fast. Knowing I can recycle the things makes me feel somewhat better.

  21. Teresa says:

    I hope many stores do what my Kroger does. You type in your card number into a handheld device (there are wipes with the device) and scan all your stuff as you go, I load straight into my bags. You finish shopping, “turn your scanner in” by scanning it to pay, tap the card, and leave. You never have to interact with anyone. No food leaves my possession once I choose it either.


    Only tangentially related, but one thing that’s pissing me off is people not bagging their own gd groceries. My local store is only having people working the register to limit the number of people, so there are no baggers. And these able-bodied adults in line are impatiently waiting for the person to both scan and bag their groceries. How lazy can you be?? Wait until they get to the end of the belt, maintain distance, and bag them yourself. The people working grocery stores deserve better.

    • Audrey says:

      THANK YOU!!! Before this whole ordeal, I bagged my groceries all the time if there wasn’t a bagger available. If I am physically able to, I will.

  23. NotSoSocialButterfly says:

    I left my bags in the car, and just carried groceries out to the car in the cart. The clerk was baffled. Loaded my bags at the car, went home.

    • MeghanNotMarkle says:

      This is actually a good idea. I think I’ll do this the next time I go shopping.

  24. Amelie says:

    The last time I went grocery shopping I was able to use reusable bags but that may have changed since. We had groceries delivered yesterday for the first time and it all came in reusable bags. My mom watched ALL the fruits and vegetables in soap and water in our laundry room sink and then put them out to dry. This may seem extreme but it’s what a lot of people have recommended doing. I also helped wipe down all boxed items or items wrapped in plastic with Clorox wipes. I also wiped down the 5 reusable bags we received from Fresh Direct with wipes as well and immediately washed my hands and stripped off my clothes to wash them. The reusable bags are now sitting in our garage and I’m assuming in a few days we’ll be able to touch them. I know some people seem to think the clothes changing thing is a bit paranoid but honestly you can’t be too careful.

    I also received two packages from Amazon yesterday and put on gloves to bring them inside and am leaving them in the garage for about 24 hours since it says the virus can live on cardboard surfaces for about 24 hours. Our mail carrier who we briefly talked to as she left the packages outside our front door told us not to pick them up right away so they ended up sitting outside for several hours before we even brought them inside.

  25. Pam says:

    Governor Baker banned them here in MA over a week ago. I think every little bit helps.

  26. Pam says:

    And we can only use paper bags. Plastic are already banned in our local area.

  27. nicegirl says:

    We have stopped using reusable bags for groceries right now.

  28. Sarah says:

    If reusables are not allowed and you do not wish to use plastic bags, put everything back in your cart, and put them in your own bags in your trunk.

  29. Summer says:

    This is all so wild. The earth needs to reset itself. That’s one thing that’s been a positive throughout all of this. If you look at the marine life in Italy alone, it’s a huge improvement.

  30. Hmp says:

    I feel like it’s safer to bring your own bag, use it instead of a cart, and then bag the stuff yourself. Employees keep trying to bag my things and I don’t want anyone else to touch my stuff please!

  31. Kc says:

    As long as you follow basic hygiene rules (as in, Don’t sneeze on your hands or your surrroundings, don’t touch your face etc), there is no need to panic over grocery bags even with Corona. I swear I see people on the streets wearing gloves Picking their noses.

    • MeghanNotMarkle says:

      I see people using their phones and all kinds of things with gloves on. It’s ridiculous.

  32. GamerGirl says:

    Seattle stores are using paper bags or carry them out and bag in your car. My son bags groceries at the local store, and he recommends selecting pre-bagged fruits/veggies or putting them in a plastic bag. Basically, avoid letting them touch the conveyor belt.

  33. Thea says:

    I went to Sprouts on Wednesday and brought my own bags. The cashier said that we weren’t allowed to put the bags on the conveyor belt anymore, but because she was wearing a mask and her voice was muffled, I misunderstood her and thought she said she couldn’t bag my stuff. So I was like ok, no problem, I can bag the stuff myself – which I did.

    I’m so used to not using plastic bags anymore, it feels icky to use one. They are so bad for the environment. I do wonder though, are they gonna still charge for bags? And like most of you said up top, I don’t see how plastic bags that have been sitting out in the store all day is safer than a cloth bag and I pack myself.

  34. Erika H says:

    I don’t get why reusable bags are bad/how they’d increase chance of covid19 versus plastic bags. Reusable bags can be tossed in the wash. Besides, covid stays on plastic for 3 days!

    • MeghanNotMarkle says:

      How many people wash their bags after every use? I’ll admit that I don’t unless they’re visibly dirty or something leaked. Not all of my bags are washable, either. I do try to wipe them down with a Norwex cloth after I use them but I don’t always remember to do that. I’d bet that most folks don’t wash their bags after every use.

  35. Alicia says:

    GOOD NEWS is that most plastics (including bags, bottles and food containers) can be recycled. The challenge is that the country has not invested in the recycling infrastructure to make this economically feasible for private industry. Plastic is an extremely efficient and sanitary material, so lets hope we can innovate the infrastructure to recycle it properly.

    • Sarah says:

      Recyclable and recycled are two different things. Only 9% of plastics are actually recycled. That number falls to 1% for soft plastics. Plastic that is recycled can only do so a handful of times as the material losses quality each time. Recycling is not the answer.

      • OriginalLara says:

        And to add to that: plastic can take up to 1000 (yes, that’s three zeros) to decompose. Just bag your own groceries and wash your re-usable bags on a hot cycle.

      • Arpeggi says:

        It also requires a lot of water, energy and gaz to be brought to the facility and be recycled and transported to wherever it’ll be transformed… Recycling is better than straight into the landfill, but not by much especially given how it’s currently done

  36. MeghanNotMarkle says:

    I haven’t run into any issues with reusable bags here, but I live in Florida where the response to this pandemic has been abysmal. FFS, churches were declared “essential businesses” so this is going to keep spreading like wildfire here. Anyway, I saw the idea up-thread to just leave my reusable bags in my car, carry out my groceries, and then sort them into my bags at my trunk. Now, I live in a great climate where cold weather and rain aren’t really an issue, so it’s a bit easier for me to do this than folks who live in super cold or wet places. But I still think it’s a good idea and I’ll start doing that instead of taking in my bags (where they could become contaminated or potentially contaminate others).