It must be nice to take a vacation in Aruba, see how the people there live, and then return to the U.S. and force Americans to live the same way.
Well, that is exactly what a New Jersey State senator is trying to do. State Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex) sponsored a bill that would ban plastic and paper bags from grocery stores.
“No bags whatsoever," Smith said, according to NJ.com. "No single-use plastic, no paper.”
He told the outlet he was inspired to push the bill during a vacation with his wife in Aruba.
“Nobody’s grumbling," he said of the people in Aruba who brought their own bags to the grocery store. "Everybody in the line, they all do it.”
Aruba has had a plastic bag ban since 2008, so they’re definitely used to it. The island also charges for paper bags, but hasn’t outright banned them.
Americans could also get used to it, but something missing from all the talk about reusable bags is the health concerns they create.
Reusable bags could be great, but people don’t treat them properly. USA Today reported that a 2011 study from the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University “found only 3% of shoppers with multi-use bags said they regularly washed them.” The study also “found bacteria in 99% of bags tested; half carried coliform bacteria while 8% carried E. coli, an indicator of fecal contamination.”
Do you regularly wash your reusable bags? They don’t magically stay clean. If you don’t, you’re bringing this bacteria into the grocery stores, possibly contaminating food for the rest of us. Thanks, environmental good-doers.
Smith’s bill in New Jersey passed out of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, which the Middlesex senator leads, and now sits before the Senate Budget Committee. This is the committee that would have to amend the bill to include the paper-bag ban, NJ.com reported.
Democrats control the New Jersey legislature, so the bill is likely to pass.
One of the authors of the 2011 study also finished another study in 2013, which tracked bacteria that was harmless to humans from reusable bags. That study found the bacteria in “high concentrations on shopping carts, at the checkout counter and on food items shoppers had touched but kept on the shelf.”
Though the bacteria was harmless, its growth was due to the similar way in which it and the norovirus spread.
The author of the study told USA Today that people should treat reusable bags “like the dirtiest laundry and washed in hot water with a detergent and disinfectant.”
Linda Doherty, the president of the New Jersey Food Council, told NJ.com that the ban makes sense because people are already choosing to use reusable bags.
“As more customers shift their shopping habits and bring reusable bags, we think it’s a sensible solution to phase out and ban both plastic and paper single use bags,” she said. "As customers choose to reuse, we support this uniform progressive policy at the checkout. We are prepared to work with the Legislature and the Murphy administration on a statewide standard.”
If more and more customers are already choosing this option, why institute a ban at all? Isn’t the issue solving itself? Why does government have to get involved?