Best Practices for Using Your Reusable Bags and Keeping Them Clean

On March 1, 2020 New York State enacted a new waste reduction law that prohibits single-use plastic bags across the state (with a few exceptions). While much attention has been placed on grocery stores, the rule also applies to some small businesses and retailers.

Because our home state of New York is enacting this ban, there are a few things to be mindful of when using reusable bags to transport your groceries.

The number one concern when it comes to reusable bags is food safety. Recent studies have shown that it’s common for E Coli – a fecal bacteria that can make you sick – to dwell in reusable shopping bags. To combat against lurking germs, it’s important to wash and disinfect your bags frequently.

Tips for Keeping Your Reusable Bags Clean

  • Canvas bags: These are super easy to clean! Just toss them in the washing machine. If you’re using them to transport meat and fish, toss them in the wash as soon as you get home from the store.
  • Insulated totes: You’re probably using insulated shopping bags to transport cold items such as meat, frozen foods and veggies, which makes it really important to keep germs under control. Clean your insulated bags by wiping them down with disinfectant wipes.
  • Recycled plastic & nylon bags:  Hand wash nylon bags and bags made from recycled plastic with warm, soapy water and hang them to dry.
  • Wash your reusable bags frequently! No matter what your bags are made of, it’s important to wash them often – especially if you are using them to transport groceries.

As important as it is to clean your reusable bags, there are also ways to mitigate germs and keep contamination at bay right from the get go.

Tips for Using Your Reusable Bags and Preventing Contamination

  • Designate! Designate different bags for different purposes. This will prevent cross-contamination of food. For example, you may want to consider designating one bag specifically for meat, poultry and fish and another for fruits and veggies.
  • Label. After you designate your bags for different purposes, make your life (and the cashier’s life) even easier by labeling your bags. You can use a label maker to mark your bags or even supplement with some masking tape and a permanent marker.
  • Don’t mix food and play. If you have reusable bags for groceries, then use them just for groceries. Reduce contamination risk by avoiding using your grocery bags to transport gym equipment, books or sporting gear.

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