Paper, Plastic or Germs?

We all have them – tangled wads of reusable shopping bags shoved haphazardly into the trunks of our cars waiting to carry our purchases from grocery shelf to kitchen countertop. Sometimes they haul our library items back to the book return. On Saturdays they carry the farmers’ market treasures that we painstakingly select for freshness and health benefits. If we do really well and remember them every time we shop, they might even transport our personal care products like cosmetics and pharmacy items. In a pinch our reusable shopping bag becomes an impromptu beach bag, diaper bag or tote for the kiddo’s toys.

You should know that they’re covered in germs. A lot of bad, bad germs. Sometimes even poop germs.

A study by University of Arizona and Loma Linda University in California revealed that we don’t wash our reusable bags. I don’t wash mine. You don’t wash yours. The dude in front of us at the grocery doesn’t wash his either and he’s rubbing it all over the belt and bagging area. In fact, 97 percent of those interviewed in the study never washed or bleached their reusable bags even though doing so would eliminate virtually all danger. Of the bags the researchers tested about half contained serious bacteria like E.coli.

The truth is, I never gave it a single thought before reading about this research. It’s not like I don’t care about cleanliness but I was putting my healthy fruits and veggies in a filthy bag. I certainly think about it now and I’ve changed my ways.

This is a gross-out story intended to scare you. Now go find those germy bags and hit the washer with them! When you get back from the laundry room we would love to hear your opinions on bags. What are your ideas for keeping your reusables clean and safe? Do you use woven polypropylene, string, canvas or some other material?  Do you have any tips & tricks for remembering to wash them AND get them back in the car to be used again next time?

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6 Responses to “Paper, Plastic or Germs?”

  1. Scott says:

    Ewwww that is kind of gross. Guess it is time to
    Start scrubbing the bags down. Thanks for the tip glad I know….and knowing is half the battle

  2. Emily says:

    Good thing I don’t use these bags then. I just use the plastic ones they give me at the store, and then reuse those for trash can liners or kitty poop disposal. Occasionally I remember to take them back to the store for recycling as well. :)

    • Target has the very best plastic bags – they contain recycled content and they’re large so more can fit in one bag AND they make tiny trash can liners. As for the 4R’s, you’re hitting reuse and recycle. Good work!

      There are actually conflicting studies about which type of bag is best. Some say that if you use the woven polypropylene – the kind those awesome red & white Trader Joe’s bags is made of – you have to use it several hundred times to hit the environmental break-even point.

  3. JustKaryce says:

    I have never thought about the germ traps my bags are! Thank you for this PSA!

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