I fought the good fight when it came to the Bag Tax / Fee coming in October of 2020 in Howard County (Howard County Council Passes The Plastic Bag Fee And Rejects A Plastic Bag Ban). As things stand this tax/fee will be hitting shoppers in Howard County and nearly all stores…so when I saw this information from New York State Department of Health I though it worth sharing: (Revised: February 2020)

Reusable Grocery Bags: A Smart Choice But Play It Safe

Reusable grocery bags have become very popular as people seek to reduce waste and protect the environment. Cloth and plastic-lined bags do help, but are they safe?

Reusable grocery bags are a smart choice but there could be some risk. When you carry food or other items in these bags, they may leave behind germs like E. coli or Salmonella. If the bags are not properly washed and dried before they are used again, these germs remain and can make you sick.

Keep yourself and your family safe. Follow these easy steps to reduce the spread of germs:

Separate meat, fish or poultry; fresh produce, and ready-to-eat foods.

  • Use separate bags. Dedicate one bag for meat, fish or poultry; another for fresh fruits and vegetables, and another for ready-to-eat foods. It’s also a good idea to keep these foods separated in your shopping cart, on the checkout lane’s conveyor belt, and at home. This will help prevent germs from spreading.
  • Remember: cold food needs to be refrigerated within two hours of leaving the store or market. When temperatures outside are above 90 degrees, cold food should be refrigerated within one hour.

Always put raw meats into a disposable plastic bag before putting them in a reusable bag.

  • A disposable plastic bag will help contain any juices that drip off raw meat, fish and poultry packages. These juices will then be unable to touch other foods and contaminate them. Disposable plastic bags are usually available in your store’s raw meat, fish, poultry or produce areas.
  • Immediately after use, throw away disposable plastic bags used for raw meat, fish or poultry. Never reuse bags that contained raw meat, fish or poultry.

Wash reusable grocery bags often.

  • Cloth reusable bags should be washed in a washing machine using laundry detergent. They should also be dried in the dryer or air-dried.
  • Plastic-lined reusable bags should be scrubbed using hot water and soap, then air-dried.
  • Before storing, be sure both cloth and plastic-lined reusable bags are completely dry.

Reusable Bags are best stored in a cool, dry place when possible.

  • Reusable bags are best stored in a cool, dry place when possible. Make sure your bags are clean to inhibit bacteria growth.

Do not use reusable grocery bags for other purposes.

  • Bags used for groceries should be used only for food. Don’t carry items such as baby bottles, toys, gym clothes, and other items in the same reusable bags that you take to the grocery store. These simple steps will help reduce the spread of germs to keep you and your family safe.

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The lessons I learned from the guidance above:

  • Have a lot of reusable bags and separate them between grocery shopping bags and regular shopping bags (Target, Walmart, the stores at the mall, etc…)
  • The need for disposable plastic bags does not totally go away…for items like raw meat, fish, poultry and produce…but you will not pay a tax/fee for those plastic bags based on the legislation passed by the Howard County Council
  • Wash your reusable bags regularly
  • The trunk of your car or the back of your SUV is probably not the best place to store your reusable bags (so potentially lots of trips home to get them while out and about if you want to avoid the tax/fee)
  • There are real health risks when it comes to these bags if the guidance above is not followed closely (they may leave behind germs like E. coli or Salmonella)

At the State level the “Plastic Bag Reduction Act” which the “Synopsis” states – “Prohibiting a store from distributing plastic carryout bags to a customer at the point of sale; requiring a store to charge and collect at least 10 cents for each durable carryout bag the store provides to a customer; authorizing a store to retain all money collected under certain circumstances; providing certain penalties for certain violations of the Act under certain circumstances; establishing the Single-Use Products Workgroup; requiring the Workgroup to study and make recommendations regarding single-use products; etc.” is moving forward. The House passed it by a vote of 95 to 37. All Democrats from Howard County voted yes, Miller voted no and Kittleman was noted as absent for this vote.

IMPORTANT NOTE – The plastic-bag ban was amended in committee to remove a provision that would have allowed retailers to charge at least 10 cents for a durable carryout bag. THIS IS AWESOME!!!

Now we wait to see if the State Senate acts on this legislation.

That is all I have for today on this topic. It is no longer a fight for me…but a topic to provide information to our community.

Scott E

1 COMMENT

  1. Wash reusable bags. Still use disposable bags for meat etc. Pretty soon the environmental impact of the bag tax will exceed the supposed benefits. But at least we in Ho co appear virtuous.

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