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Can Bags Be Safe and Sustainable During COVID-19?

by | Posted in: Broadway News Food Service

The continued prevalence of coronavirus in the United States has consumers cautiously adjusting to a modified normal, complete with social distancing, the addition of face masks and restrictions on many activities and even certain products—such as reusable bags. But is the use of reusable bags during the coronavirus pandemic actually dangerous, or is misinformation leading to the abandonment of sustainable practices? Moving forward, how can we stay safe and sustainable?

Surface Transmission and COVID-19

The World Health Organization confirmed the COVID-19 virus could survive, in the right conditions, for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to 72 hours on plastics, but surface transmission is not the only way, or even the primary way, that the virus spreads. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed that the virus primarily spreads from person to person, typically when an infected person sneezes, coughs or talks at close range in poorly ventilated spaces.

While it is still possible for a healthy person to become sick from a contaminated surface, exposure plays a key factor. Surfaces frequently touched by a large number of people, such as door handles or elevator buttons, play a more significant role in spreading the infection than objects touched incidentally, such as food packages.

The Plastics Industry Association sites concerns of surface transmission to tout the need for safety over sustainability and pushes for the stay or even reversal of current plastic bag bans. As a result of surface transmission concerns, some states and retailers took action against the use of reusable bags. California, Illinois and New York are among the states that updated bag regulations or temporarily suspended single-use plastic bag bans. Many other states grappled with what this means for sustainably and the use of reusable bags going forward.

How to Stay Safe AND Sustainable

The most effective ways consumers can stay safe while being sustainable during the pandemic is through proper personal hygiene. Washing hands with soap & water frequently, wearing and washing reusable masks, and adequately cleaning & storing reusable bags.

 

A study by the University of Arizona found that 97% of individuals admitted that they never washed their reusable bags pre-COVID. The same study found that 51% of all reusable bags contained coliform bacteria, and 12% contained E. coli.

Tips for cleaning reusable imagebags

Sustainability takes extra effort and attention. Here are some Tote Care Tips:

  • Sanitize reusable tote bags after each use. Follow care instructions based on bag material.
  • Dry tote bags completely and always store in them in a cool, dry environment.
  • Do not store tote bags in a warm and humid car, which can promote bacteria growth.
  • Use separate tote bags for produce and raw meats or seafood to avoid cross-contamination.

 

Check out our Sanitation Station guide for more helpful tips about caring for and cleaning reusable tote bags.

COVID’s Environmental Impact

Quarantines and social distancing have resulted in an unexpected environmental impact. Stay at home orders have kept people from travelling and industrial manufacturing has slowed down, all of which translate to less emitted greenhouse gases and a 30% decrease in pollution levels.

Unfortunately, these positive changes are likely temporary and could revert as soon as current states’ guidelines lift. Plus, the increased use of disposable gloves and other PPE, single-use dishes, cutlery and takeout containers has created a new surge of plastic waste.

Statistics about plastics that lead to numerous bag bans in the United States still hold true:

  • Less than 10% of all plastic trash produced has ever been recycled.
  • 50% of all plastic produced is designed to be used once and then discarded.
  • A plastic grocery bag has a 12-minute lifespan from first fill at the store to discard.
  • There will be more plastic than fish, by weight, in the oceans by 2050.

Download the whitepaper for more information on plastic bags, regulations and sustainability. 

As a manufacturer of bags ranging in materials, we understand industry requirements vary, and there are needs for paper, plastic, and reusable bags. Broadway is committed to reducing unnecessary waste and aims to offer a range of products, including reusable totes that allow consumers the choice of sustainability while remaining safe. 

 
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