As I jumped off the plane, I grabbed my carry-on bag from the upper luggage compartment and rushed out. I was returning from a week-long trip overseas and was quite apprehensive as to what awaited me at Kennedy Airport in New York. Surprisingly, nothing out of the ordinary. Was this good or bad? The fact that I was only asked one question, if I was bringing any nuts, rocked my nerves a bit. There was no nurse or attendant waiting to take my temperature nor any special delay because of the recent outbreak of the dreaded coronavirus. All I could think of was to thank G d for my supply of paper towels, rubber gloves and above all my trusty black and white trash bags that waited for me at home.
On my long trip home on the plane, I was able to envision some of the scenarios that would play out before me when I returned home. Some supplies that I unfortunately did not possess, were masks and sanitary covers for various items that might come into my home from the outside. Nothing could prepare me for the isolation that I would experience for the next few weeks.
The first trip I made reluctantly was to my neighborhood supermarket. This was way before any limitations were mandated as to how many people could be inside at once and other government lock-down regulations. (Looking back, I realized isolation should have started then, and not a week later. Of course, man and woman are not in charge and all I could do is look forward and stock up without hoarding).
This happened just at the time when the plastic bag ban went into effect at the beginning of March. I opened the trunk of my car and was so proud that I remembered to take my used grocery bags into the store. However, after doing my shopping, and getting online to pay, I realized watching the customer before me, that the cashier was using brand new bags and not charging the customer for them.
I did not have to ask why she was not charging for the bags, as I realized what was going on. While out of the country the plastic bag ban had been lifted or at least postponed by hopeful government officials.
When I returned home, I asked myself what should be done with all the plastic grocery bags waiting in my garage to be used by the not so environmentally friendly, but law abiding me?
“Don’t touch them,” I was advised. Deciding the best idea would be to get rid of them, I tried figuring out how. Although I did not yet have a mask, I was wearing a turtleneck top and I finally understood why it was called a turtleneck. Like a turtle, I hid my face inside my turtleneck and went to find my rubber gloves and trusty trash bags. Holding my breath, I opened a fresh uncontaminated trash bag and quickly got rid of all the used grocery bags in my house. Breathing a sigh of relief, I placed the filled trash bag into my outside trash can. Luckily, my husband always has the trash cans lined with outdoor trash bags. My trash can remain safe.
Later that week, I received a delivery of non-perishable items that someone left at my door. I heard that even cardboard boxes can carry the coronavirus. How am I supposed to keep this box from being touched by other people in the house? Putting on a fresh pair of rubber gloves, I grabbed a fresh box of jumbo garbage bags and picked two out. Wow they were big! I carefully placed the box in the bag. Only one bag did the trick. With a roll of clear tape, I sealed the trash bag securely and left the box in the garage. I am waiting to hear the latest time span of how long to keep my carton quarantined.
As I read about the various states canceling the plastic ban law, I am also learning about the disadvantages of this law to begin with. Governor Baker, of Massachusetts was asked by the state’s Food Administration, last week, to cancel the bag ban.
New York, where the ban was effective on March first, has pushed it off to May fifteenth. It did not however, ban the reusable bags completely. According to the trade publication, Plastics News, the state of Maine’s plastic bag ban was scheduled for April 22, (Earth Day). Last week, the governor, Janet Mills, postponed the bag ban’s implementation until January 15, 2021.
On the other hand, according to the Boston Herald, New Hampshire’s, Governor, Chris Sununu, imposed an emergency order banning reusable bags. He has compassion for the devoted grocery workers of his state who are on the front lines of the coronavirus, working long hours to keep his state’s families fed. The governor issued a statement reinforcing this new ban.
“With identified community transmission, it is important that shoppers keep their reusable bags at home given the potential risk to baggers, grocers and customers.”
An article in the New York Post, described a 2018 study of the Journal of Environmental Health. It stated that germ-laden bags can make us sick, since they can carry both viruses and bacteria. Many logical Americans have felt that way initially when hearing about the plastic bag ban. In fact, New York State was directly warned that reusable bags could be transmitters of disease. These warnings were ignored since some environmentalists care more about marine life than human life. The environment and animals are more important than precious human lives. For some political leaders, ‘going green” equals votes. How naive can some state leaders be, that they have not rescinded the new plastic bag bans but only postponed them?
Is Coronavirus the only sickness that can be communicable through the bags?
Researchers in the University of Arizona, way back in 2011, found many bacteria, including, fecal bacteria such as e coli and salmonella, in samples of reusable shopping bags. When comparing new reusable bags with new disposable bags the results were staggering.
On the reusable bags, bacteria were found on 99% of the ones tested, while no bacteria were found on the new disposable bags. Additionally, leaking meat packages and other perishable food items have lingering germs that can fester when stored in car trunks.
Hospitals, nursing homes and schools have realized long ago the safety of disposable necessities. Sure, it was nice and more elegant to serve food on real plates with real cutlery, but it was at the expense of the safety of the occupants of these facilities. Even before the coronavirus epidemic, would anyone want to wipe their hands in a cloth towel that someone used right before them? So, who would want to touch a bag that someone is reusing in these dangerous times?
Going way back to the 1970’s, studies then showed that reusable utensils often contained dangerous levels of bacteria after being washed. Imagine, a fast-paced restaurant with a high-volume clientele? They would need to have a massive number of utensils in order to wash them properly in high enough temperatures of water only found in automatic dishwashers.
I can’t help but notice the irony in the timing of the plastic ban coinciding with the incidence of the coronavirus in my own state of New York. Environmentally friendly chains like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks were so determined to help the environment by giving refills in their high-priced reusable cups that have become so fashionable lately. Both Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks announced that they will no longer allow their customers to refill their reusable cups.
Coronavirus has unfortunately reminded us of the reason why disposable supplies have become staples of our world. Learning proper ways of handling of our disposables, rather than bans is the answer to our garbage problems. We will get through coronavirus and be thankful of how plastics helped us stay protected from the virus.
Every cloud has a silver lining and hopefully our politicians/environmentalists have learned from the dangerous times that we are living in and are realizing the preciousness of human life. True, it’s very important to care for the environment and not abuse it. Just as a human being can damage the environment he or she can also improve it. Take the cutting down of trees as an example. We thought that we would saw away all the forests in America. But in the last seventy years we have doubled the amount of trees in the United States. We as human will always adapt to the situation and make it better. If there is a problem of too much plastic in the ocean, in ten years from now, we will learn how to filter ocean water, making it safer for marine life. To every challenge there is a solution. For now, disposable trash bags are life’s necessity. They contain unwanted and hazardous waste, which protects our people and our planet. Let’s make the best of the situation.