Bay Area Bans Reusable Shopping Bags Amid Coronavirus Pandemic. Yes, You Read That Right

Image for article titled Bay Area Bans Reusable Shopping Bags Amid Coronavirus Pandemic. Yes, You Read That Right
Photo: Shutterstock

The coronavirus pandemic has made it so people are having to take precautionary measures that would never have occurred to us in any other situation. Some of these sanitary measures may seem over the top, but hey, this is where we are now.


According to Politico, the San Francisco Bay Area—arguably one of the most progressive, environmentally conscious regions in the U.S.—has just instituted a new policy banning reusable grocery bags.

The plastics industry has lobbied on the federal level and in New York, New Jersey and other states, asserting that often-unwashed reusable bags are hotbeds for the coronavirus, which early research suggests can remain on surfaces. But so far, there hasn’t been evidence of industry lobbying in California.

Last month, the Bay Area instituted the strictest measures seen in the U.S. at the time in an effort to contain the rapid spread of coronavirus, so it isn’t entirely surprising that the region would be the first to do something this drastic. But still...this is the BAY AREA we’re talking about here.

This is happening in the state that banned single-use plastic bags in 2016 and where Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the first state law in the country barring hotels from using those small, plastic shampoo bottles. Now, the Bay Area is banning not just shopping bags, but mugs and any other reusable containers people typically bring from home when shopping in grocery stores, pharmacies and the like.

Predictably, some “go green” advocates are unhappy.

“This fear of bringing reusable bags into the stores is misguided, but I certainly understand why store employees don’t want to handle somebody else’s things,” Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, told Politico. “I wouldn’t have any expectation that somebody is going to put my groceries into my bag that I brought from home.”


Jim Arby, director of strategic campaigns for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5, feels differently about the move saying that since the Bay Area has done the work so far in preventing the spread of COVID-19 infection, he trusts officials in this decision.

“If you look at how the Bay Area has led on all of this, they led on shelter-in-place first,” he said. “They’re being responsive to what’s out there. From our perspective, it’s important to be responsive and be proactive.”



I live in the Bay and was at the Safeway yesterday. They aren’t charging for paper bags, however, the much bigger issue is: the cashiers and courtesy clerks have NO PROTECTIVE GEAR! I asked the cashier why she had no gloves on and she said she wasn’t given any. Money is filthy on a good day; Trader Joe’s clerks have the same issue. I wouldn’t want to touch someone’s nasty bag either.

Instead of focusing on bags, I wish someone would do some reporting on the lack of protection being offered to grocery workers and what stores are going to do to change policies so their workers are better protected.