Coronavirus outbreaks may be leading to something I’ve been waiting for: the end of reusable bags. Stores are rolling out policies against them as it becomes clearer that this new coronavirus can live on surfaces for hours to days. This means those kitschy fabric totes that have become so popular for carrying groceries and other goods are suddenly disease vectors, spreading germs just when we need that the least.
Plastic grocery bags aren’t just convenient for carrying groceries. In a time when items fly off the shelves faster than many of us can get them, grocery bags also double as tiny trash bags, helping keep homes clean. This is far from the only use for these bags, especially during this time of rolling shortages.
When I was younger I worked in home health care, and one of the families I enjoyed helping was a lovely elderly lady who had lived through the Great Depression. She saved everything. Everything had a new life in her home, repurposed into something useful.
As a young person, this idea was pretty wild to me, but it’s been really helpful now as a wife and mother. And it’s a lesson so applicable today. Those grocery bags come in handy. They’re not a single-use item, destined for just a single load of groceries.
Short-sighted policies that forced people and stores to quit using them have deprived people of something helpful for today. Use those bags to wrap up smelly diapers, or the grossness from a litter box. Clean up after your dog on all of those extra walks you might be taking right now. Your neighbors will appreciate that.
I also keep them rolled up in my car for trash and the unfortunate and unpredictable car sickness that seems to happen on mountain roads. They’ve saved my seats from wet clothes when rain or mud puddles happen. I throw the children’s rain and snow boots into these bags. When I’m packing a suitcase to fly, I wrap shoes or sandals in them to keep the grossness off our clothes.
Reusable Plastic Bags Are a Germ’s Best Friend
Reusable bags are good for none of this. They’re good for little other than picking up groceries, and you’d better hope none of those groceries are wet or leaking. Many reusable bags don’t even wash well, and you can’t throw them in the washing machine. Who, especially with this coronavirus lurking everywhere, wants an item wrapped around his food that can’t truly be cleaned?
I don’t. And that’s not a germaphobic stance, either.
The irrational war on plastic shopping bags won’t save the environment or the whales or penguins. Denmark’s ministry of environment did a study on plastic bags versus faux-green alternatives in 2018, following various bag types across their life-cycles. It found the plastic bag actually has the least negative impact of the environment. Their findings fall in line with other studies on this.
Quartz explains plastic’s more minimal effects on the environment—again, especially for marine life: “when taking into account other factors, like the impact of manufacturing on climate change, ozone depletion, water use, air pollution, and human toxicity, those classic, plastic shopping bags are actually the most benign of the current common options.”
Those cotton totes that stores want you to buy instead? They require thousands of shopping trips to equal a single-use plastic bag’s impact on the environment. This means you’d better not ever forget them and buy a new one, rip it and throw it out, or dirty it beyond cleaning. Then you’ve wasted it, damaging the environment more than a simple, fast plastic bag.
In a striking blow to many of these bags, organic cotton may be even worse for the environment, with the so-called natural pesticides creating problems and dubious water practices. That cute bag isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, so why are we guilting people into buying them and making them think they’re saving the world, one bag at a time?
Please Realize Virtue Signaling Only Hurts People
Plastic bag bans and social disapproval are not doing anything other than making our lives a whole lot harder right now. Honestly, that’s the last thing that any of us need. We don’t need to throw up roadblocks to people and businesses trying to make things work. We don’t need to complicate something like buying groceries. Plastic shopping bags aren’t the enemy here.
How many other policies and things that have been forced on us will we eventually realize didn’t help mitigate any of the harms promised? I think as the weeks and years march forward, it will be more and more. These fast, feel-good policies make people feel like something is being done, that some change has happened, that they’re making a difference, but we’re really just spinning our wheels.
I really don’t need the government to control the types of bags I can grab at the store, especially when the choices foisted on me end up being inferior and spread germs. Just let me have my bags in peace.
Leave us our bags. Ease off this over-regulation of things that should be individual choice and common sense.