Reusable grocery tote bags across Massachusetts are idle these days, stuffed in the backs of vehicles and hanging on door knobs in homes.
That's because last week Gov. Charlie Baker issued a new public health order: "From now on reusable bags are prohibited and all regulations on plastic bag bans will be lifted."
Several New England states have also temporarily banned reusable bags or delayed implementing or enforcing new restrictions on single-use bags.
The goal is to limit the spread of the coronavirus in food stores and pharmacies. But the scientific evidence supporting the prohibition of reusables is far from conclusive.
Over the past two years, 139 Massachusetts municipalities have instituted a variety of restrictions on single-use bags. A move to pass a statewide ban has failed in 10 legislative seasons.
The Massachusetts Food Association, which represents supermarkets and grocers, has supported a uniform statewide ban for environmental reasons but right now, it's pro-paper and plastic.
"During an emergency crisis, they're probably safer than reusable bags," says Brian Houghton, the association's senior vice president for policy. "There have been studies we've seen by the CDC and others that there are surfaces that this virus can live on."Georgia tries to use reusable bags (peer pressure is a powerful thing), but the last time she went to the grocery store, she came back with the back of the car full of the old one use plastic bags. It seems the local store won't allow reusable bags in the era of WuFlu.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers no specific recommendations about reusable bags and coronavirus. (Though they do say you should regularly wash reusable bags to prevent the spread of food-borne disease.)
The Wombat has Rule Five Monday: Honor Blackman, RIP up on time at The Other McCain.