The ban on all reusable bags was originally issued by executive order on March 24 with the intent of preventing the spread of COVID-19. New Hampshire was the first state in the nation to implement such a prohibition.

There were concerns that shoppers with the coronavirus might bring contaminated bags to the grocery store, where workers could get infected and spread the virus further.

While there is a small probability of the virus remaining active on surfaces and reusable bags, the larger concern for grocers has always been that unclean reusable bags are very likely to contain harmful bacteria from previous shopping trips, unless they are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before being brought back into the store.

On Monday July 27, Gov. Chris Sununu announced through his Twitter account, he would rescind the state’s ban on reusable shopping bags. New Hampshire and Illinois were the only states yet to lift reusable shopping bag bans imposed because of the pandemic.

“Today I will be issuing a new emergency order that rescinds the ban on reusable bags when shopping. We looked at the latest data, consulted with officials at public health, and ask individuals to be courteous and respectful to retail/grocery workers,” Sununu stated.

The build-up of bacteria in these carriers is the primary reason the New Hampshire Grocers Association (NHGA) has always favored the one-time use of paper or plastic bags. No one should assume that every reusable bag brought back to the store has been properly cleaned after every shopping trip.

More than 85 percent of those will not be washed and sanitized after every shopping visit. These are the bags that will most likely carry bacteria and could harm the 15 percent that do regularly clean their bags.

However, according to the NHGA, reinstating reusable bags — effective immediately — did not provide business owners with an opportunity to inform their employees that some customers would be bringing in reusable bags.

Previously, Sununu stated: “Grocery store workers are on the frontlines of this public health crisis, and we should all probably be doing what we can to make their lives easier and less stressful these days.”

The NHGA appreciates the governor’s original initiative to implement the ban soon after COVID-19 was announced, and kept it enforced until now. The ban has helped customers feel more secure about coming to food stores. This along with the safety guidelines being followed has protected customers, store employees and ensured a safer food supply.

Customers who do have reusable bags are urged to wash them after every single use. And for those who still prefer the use of plastic single-use bags, you are requested to dispose of them properly. The ideal way is to bring them back to most major retail food stores that provide receptacles in their lobby, and the plastic bags are then recycled into new products, like composite decking and even fuel.

By working together everyone can experience the benefits of reuse of our valuable resources and reduce the impact of plastic on our environment.