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Push Back on Plastic Bag Bans

Plastic grocery bags

Prior to the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19, a number of jurisdictions announced single-use plastic bag bans (see the article, More states Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags, for more information). Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the health implications of these bans are being questioned.

The Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS) sent a letter on March 18 to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) expressing concern about the increased use of reusable bags due to laws restricting the use of single-use plastic products. The letter cited studies showing that reusable bags can carry viruses and bacteria, and can spread them throughout a grocery store. The letter concludes by requesting that HHS “investigate this issue and make a public statement on the health and safety benefits seen in single-use plastics” and “speak out against bans on these products as a public safety risk.”

Several states have reconsidered banning single-use plastic bags - at least temporarily. A March 26 New York Times article summarized some of the delays in plastic bag bans:

“Last week, lawmakers in Maine voted to push back the state’s plastic bag ban until next year as part of a package of emergency coronavirus measures. Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire issued an emergency health order requiring stores to use single-use paper or plastic shopping bags to prevent new infections. On Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts temporarily banned the use of reusable shopping bags and mandated that stores do not charge for plastic or paper bags.”