Bringing back reusable bags

Photo by Patrick McGannon, near Rocky River Park

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the pandemic pollution, namely disposable masks and gloves and how the proper disposal of these items is very important to ensure that they do not make their way into the environment. This week, I’m going to revisit the plastic bag issue.

At the beginning of the pandemic, reusable bags suddenly were not allowed into stores, and for good reason as it was not well known how COVID-19 was spreading. However, we now know that the main risk (per the CDC) is to be in close contact with a person who has the disease. The CDC does state that it's not impossible to get it from a contaminated surface, however that is not the main source of transmission.

Also, when you think about grocery shopping, by the time the items get to the bagger, the customer has already touched them, the cashier has touched them, and the last person to touch them is the bagger.

Simply put, if reusable bags are dangerous, then the grocery items themselves pose just as much risk. Furthermore, disposable products are not inherently safer than reusables. In fact, the virus has been shown to remain active on plastic from two to six days. A lot of reusable bags are not made from plastic – but plastic bags are made of plastic!

Despite this, ensuring the safety of essential workers in the grocery store needs to remain top priority, and they should not be required to handle anything they don't need to handle. However, there is no reason that customers shouldn’t be allowed to bag their own groceries into their own bags. Whole Foods has been letting customers bag their own groceries into reusables for quite a while, and there is a new sign posted at Giant Eagle grocery stores that announces reusable bags are now being allowed at the self-checkout and Scan Pay Go lanes. 

So, my plea to you today is to email Heinen’s (and other retailers who are still not allowing reusable bags) and ask that they start allowing reusables again if customers bag groceries themselves. Honestly, I bag groceries myself frequently while shopping at Heinen’s because they don’t always have a bagger at every checkout.

Allowing reusable bags is crucial to prevent the further pollution of Lake Erie. If you take a look at the photo taken by my friend Patrick McGannon while he was out kayaking on Lake Erie near Rocky River Park, you will see the familiar Heinen’s logo.

Grocers and retailers have a responsibility to prevent their stores from polluting the neighborhoods and environments in which they are conducting business. I know that one, singular bag represents many, many more that are now floating around the lake.  After doing some research into this issue, reusable bags are allowed again state-wide in California and in Massachusetts after a temporary ban, and in my anecdotal research talking to people who live in other states it seems that grocers all over the U.S. are allowing them again, as experts agree that surface transmission of COVID is unlikely.

You can email Heinen’s at to request reusable bags be allowed in the stores again.

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Volume 12, Issue 18, Posted 10:23 AM, 09.15.2020