Food supermarkets are one of the few places in the U.S. that can still keep up open during the new corona virus, and disposable plastic bags are making a comeback at this particular time — as some worry that reusable bags could spread the virus,media reported. In the wake of the epidemic, more and more governments banned the use of single-use plastic bags in order to reduce waste.
But as the new coronavirus spreads around the world, people are wary of being in close contact with others and their belongings, such as shopping bags. On March 31, New Hampshire became the first State in the United States to temporarily ban the use of environmental bags during a pandemic.
“For whatever reason, there seems to be an interest in shopping bags,” said Meghan May, a professor of microbiology and infectious diseases at the University of New England School of Orthopaedic Medicine. “I usually use (the green bag) all the time because I live in a seaside town and clean seas are very important,” May told The Verge. “But now, she and many others are thinking twice about it.
Like everything else today, reused bags should be handled with care to reduce the risk of infection to others. At the same time, so far there is no evidence that the use of reused shopping bags will be responsible for the spread of the new coronavirus.
Right now, people really don’t know how long the new coronavirus will survive on an environmental bag. The results of one study show that the virus can survive on plastic for up to three days under laboratory conditions. May noted that since the study did not study the effects of the virus on fabrics, it was not possible to apply its findings directly to cloth bags.
May suggests that, despite the lack of data, shoppers should take precautions with shopping bags: “People would rather make mistakes and be careful in this regard, because we know that (the virus) can survive on many different types of surfaces.” We should probably assume that it can spread in this way until someone proves that it can’t. “
One way to prevent the spread of bacteria is to clean reusable bags before and after each use. According to North Carolina State University, plastic bags and nylon bags can be cleaned with soap and water, then sprayed or wiped with diluted bleach or disinfectant. The school added that it is important to clean the inside and outside of the cloth bags and let them air-dry before storing or using them. Cloth bags can be cleaned like washing clothes and then dried in the warmest environment.
But the virus could quickly move from a person to something they’ve been closely exposed to, such as a bag, May said. If an infected person hands the bag to someone else, there is a risk of spreading the virus. According to May, the people most at risk are food store workers, who need to deal with many customers while they are on duty. That’s why some stores and states are starting to use single-use plastic bags again: they’re not used by so many people at all.
But environmentalists say protecting public health does not have to conflict with efforts to curb the flooding of plastic landfills and marine waste collection. “I think it’s understandable if stores, especially staff, want to keep themselves as safe as possible and because they don’t know if people are cleaning their bags,” said Ivy Schlegel, a senior research expert at Greenpace USA. “
A frequently cited 2011 study found that bacteria were found in reusable bags that were rarely cleaned, and that the study was actually funded by the American Chemical Council, a fossil fuel and chemical industry organization. On March 18, the American Plastics Industry Association sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking the department to publicly oppose the use of disposable plastic products as a public safety risk.
“Some people would call it disaster capitalism,” Schlegel says, “and the moment when everything is in disarray, where people have reason to care about public health and turn back time, and back to plastic as a normal world, rather than the reusable (bag) is becoming the norm in many places.” “
The problem of plastic pollution will not go away any time soon. Plastic shopping bags floating in the ocean take 20 years to break down. According to estimates by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a plastic bottle can exist for up to 450 years. In fact, less than 10% of plastic is recycled. A joint survey released this week by PBS and NPR shows that the industry has long known that recycling does not address the environmental harm caused by plastics, but it continues to promote it as a viable solution anyway.
During the new coronary pneumonia epidemic, there are ways to limit the use of plastic waste. May suggests moving things purchased from food supermarkets directly to the car if possible. Paper bags are another option, but they are still disposable, but at least they are composting.