Commentary: Health and safety of single-use plastic bags

By Len Fischer

The clock is ticking toward January 2021 and many Delawareans are unaware of the new law banning single-use plastic grocery bags which will force use of problematic reusable bags.

The General Assembly should rescind the ban as this new law will have little effect on improving the environment. Also, rescinding would assure the safest grocery shopping bag option for our health. 

Some reasons to justify use of single-use plastic bags or paper bags vs. reusable grocery bags include:

• Single-use plastic grocery bags and paper bags are the healthiest and safest option.

• Contaminated reusable bags brought into supermarkets present a risk to further increase and transmit highly contagious coronavirus, flu types and other infectious diseases.

• A study by University of Arizona and Loma Linda University discovered over 51% of reusable grocery bags carry coliform bacteria with E. coli present in 8%.

• A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that COVID-19 can live up to three days on plastic. 

• Surveys show over 97% of reusable grocery bags are not properly stored, handled, or sanitized. 

• Grocery shoppers are not removing their groceries on the way home and tossing the plastic bags out the car window. Surveys report nearly 78% of shoppers reuse their single-use grocery bags in their homes, for pet care, or are returning bags to stores for recycling.

• A study by the Ministry on Environment and Food in Denmark: More pollution is created from the production of reusable bag material along with the constant sanitizing, washing and the ultimate disposal of reusable grocery bags. This consumes more energy and resources, leaving a greater environmental footprint, with a more harm to the environment than the manufacture and disposal of a single-use grocery bag.

• Supermarket management does not like reusable bags in their stores. Currently, many have informed grocery shoppers that store employees will not handle reusable bags.

• Only five states out of fifty currently ban single-use plastic grocery bags. Recently Massachusetts, Maine, Illinois, California, Oregon, New Hampshire, New York, and cities from San Francisco to Philadelphia have reversed bans on the bags. Delaware is in the ever-increasing minority with those states who have a ban in place for 2021.

Regarding a proposed ban by sponsors in the General Assembly: Too much Government; another “feel good law.“ People should make their own decisions.

If Delaware’s government will not take action against reusable grocery bags and rescind the ban on single-use plastic bags, then they should at least leave grocery shoppers and supermarkets the right to make their own choices. Do not let special interest groups influence the government’s position.

If you are in favor of rescinding the law banning single-use plastic bags, please contact your state senator and representative. Our health and safety should come first, as we know first-hand in fighting the war against the coronavirus. Whatever your party affiliation, this is a bipartisan public health and safety issue. 

Len Fischer lives in Newark.