Multiple cities suspend plastic bag bans due to coronavirus concerns

Multiple cities suspend plastic bag bans due to coronavirus concerns
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Numerous cities and states have relaxed bans on single-use plastic containers amid a crackdown on reusable bags due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Oregon has suspended its plastic bag ban, as have numerous other jurisdictions including Albuquerque, N.M., and Bellingham, Wash., according to an Associated Press report. Other plastic containers have also seen increased use, particularly those associated with takeout and delivery services.

“People are scared for their lives, their livelihood, the economy, feeding their loved ones, so the environment is taking a back seat,” Glen Quadros, owner of the Great American Diner & Bar in Seattle, told the AP.

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Plastics manufacturers are lobbying to overturn various single-use bans, arguing they are the safest option to prevent the spread of the virus. The Plastics Industry Association recently asked Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to speak out against plastic bag bans, while the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance has renewed its “Bag the Ban” campaign.

Unions representing grocery workers, who have largely continued to work and been at particular risk for exposure to the virus, have also called for action on the issue. The union representing Oregon workers has called for a ban on reusable bags, while a Chicago union has called for an end to a local plastic bag tax.

“If those bags coming into the store are contaminated with anything, they get put on the conveyor belt, the counter, and you’re putting yourself in a bad spot,” Matt Seaholm, executive director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, told the AP. “It’s an unnecessary risk.”

In Massachusetts, where more than 100 towns have single-use plastic bag bans in place, the state banned reusable tote bags last week, while San Francisco, which banned plastic bags in 2007, banned reusable bags this week, CBS News reported.

Other states, including New Hampshire, Colorado, Illinois and Maryland have either stopped enforcing plastic bag bans or banned reusable bags, according to CBS, while Denver is likely to delay a proposed tax on plastic and paper bags is likely to be delayed until at least 2021 rather than July 1 of this year, according to Denverite.

“People feel like a brand new plastic bag is more sanitary,” City Councilwoman Kendra Black said, who sponsored the measure and said she plans to amend it, told the publication. “City staff and consumers have other priorities right now.”