Coronavirus

Plastic Bag Bans Are the Latest Regulations to Get Tossed During Coronavirus Pandemic

Much-maligned single-use plastics make a comeback in a newly germaphobic nation.

|

As states rush to lift, waive, or delay regulations that might impede their ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, plastic bag bans are being tossed aside.

On Tuesday, Maine's legislature voted to put off enforcement of their state's plastic bag prohibition—which was set to go into effect April 22—until next year. The day before, New York's Department of Environmental Conservation agreed to delay any enforcement of that state's bag ban until May 15.

The New York ban was supposed to go into effect on March 1. But because a lawsuit challenging the bag ban has been delayed over coronavirus, the state was forced to pull back until that case can resume.

The reusable bags these bans are supposed to encourage—and which were considered an unmitigated social good just a few weeks ago—have come under fresh scrutiny from a newly germophobic nation that fears they might aid the spread of COVID-19.

Businesses have been leading the way on this front. Starbucks suspended its policy of filling up customers' reusable mugs in early March, and Dunkin Donuts and Tim Hortons (a Canadian coffee chain) have done the same.

"Until this pandemic passes, state and local officials should discourage shoppers from bringing their potentially virus-laden reusable bags out in public. Restore single-use bags, including the plastic kind," wrote the Wall Street Journal's editorial board on Monday.

The mayor of a town in Maine has actually called for a ban on reusable bags.

How likely is it that reusable bags will give you Covid-19? That's still something of an open question. John Tierney, writing in City Journal, notes that numerous studies have shown reusable bags' potential to transmit bacteria and viruses. And recent research has shown that the virus can live on plastic surfaces for up to three days. So single-use bags might be better for avoiding the spread of the disease, as they will be tossed immediately and not left lying around the house where multiple people migh come into repeat contact with it.

That said, the Centers for Disease Control downplay the risk of surface transmission on their website, saying that while it is possible to catch COVID-19 from touching objects and then touching your face, "this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads."

Two epidemiologists interviewed by Slate about grocery store best practices also said reusable bags did not pose much of added risk. "I doubt it's going to be a problem," said Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center. "If you're really worried, you can always wipe down the bag with mild detergent or a disinfecting wipe, but that shouldn't be necessary unless the bag gets some unexpected exposure to contaminated material."

Plastic bag bans are not good policy. They have a negligible impact on plastic pollution, they may make climate change worse (heavier reusable and paper bags take more resources to manufacture and transport), and they restrict consumer choice. On those grounds alone, they should be repealed.

Consumers should certainly have the option of choosing plastic bags if they believe them to be safer, too. But they probably won't save us from coronavirus.

NEXT: 'We're All in Quarantine Now,' Says Andrew Cuomo, Who Two Days Ago Said That Was Out of the Question

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.


  1. On Tuesday, Maine’s legislature voted to put off enforcement of their state’s plastic bag prohibition—which was set to go into effect April 22—until next year. The day before, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation agreed to delay any enforcement of that state’s bag ban until May 15.

    Because, as we all know, all disease of every kind will be contained by then forever. Miraculous!

    1. Can any one tell me the co relation of plastic bags with Corona. I’m not talking about plastic is good for humans. It’s always non admitted to use it in day to day life. Waiting for same decision in India too..

    2. Do you have a paypal account ? because you can make an extra 1900 week after week in your earnings working at home three hours per day… check… Read More

    3. You have a pay_pal account… in case if you have you can get an additional 1900 week after week in your pay only working on the laptop for 5 hours a day. go here… Read More

  2. As states rush to lift, waive, or delay regulations that might impede their ability to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, plastic bag bans are being tossed aside.

    Fucking humans, always placing themselves before The Planet!

    1. The Planet will be just fine. It was here long before H. sap. came along, and will be here for some time afterwards.

      If you’re really worried about The Planet, start figuring out how to keep the sun from becoming a red giant in about a billion years or so.

      If what you mean by “The Planet” is the biosphere as it was for a couple of hundred years between the end of the little ice age and the beginning of the industrial age, the say that. But remember, you’re talking about a snapshot, not an eternity.

  3. Said the ‘environmentalist’ “don’t bother me with new information, my mind is made up”.

  4. Strange, I remember distinctly hearing that in general, reusable bags just aren’t clean, particularly if meat juice got on them. (Single-use also are easy to recycle for, say, lining trashcans that you know will be filled with things like used tissues and are very commonly used just for that purpose. Much more sanitary than an unlined trashcan…)

  5. I here Gaia crying.

  6. The ecofascists and progtards have all been waiting for a deadly pandemic to kill off a big chunk of our species.

  7. I made $64,000 so far this year working online and I’m aade such great money. It’s really user friendly and I’m just so happy that I found out full time student. I’m using an online business opportunity I heard about and I’ve mabout it. Here’s what I’ve been doingr==► Click it here   

  8. HA! I fuckin’ called it. I said that if a pandemic ever breaks out (real or perceived) that single-use plastic is gonna get REEEEAL popular again.

  9. I am making 7 to 6 dollar par hour at home on laptop ,, This is make happy But now i am Working 4 hour Dailly and make 40 dollar Easily .. This is enough for me to happy my family..how ?? i am making this so u can do it Easily…. Read more  

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.