Reusable shopping bags are great. I love them and I'm constantly picking up another one here and there—if I forget to bring a bag with me, my punishment is the cost of a new one, so they've sort of multiplied. But you know a green product is catching on when the plastics industry is fighting back in what must be an effort to drum up business.
A recently released report highlights health concerns related to reusable bags. The bags tested had been used but appeared to be clean. The good news is they didn't find any salmonella or E. coli bacteria on the bags. The bad news is they did find significant amounts of coliforms (a group of bacteria), mold and yeast. Not surprisingly, the older bags had higher concentrations of these bacteria and fungi.
The report was funded by the Environment and Plastics Industry Council—a committee of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association?but the testing was conducted by two independent laboratories. Greenwashing? Perhaps. But while I would normally be skeptical of an industry-funded report, I can see how this sort of makes sense.
Think about it. People are putting meats, unwashed foods and all sorts of items in these bags, so logic will tell you they can get unsanitary pretty quickly. But don't toss aside your reusable bags just yet. Naturally Savvy has three tips to keep you healthy and happy without reverting back to the plastic bag.
Top Tips to Keep Your Reusable Bags Clean
Bring Bins My family has two bins we use for shopping. They're great for heavier items, such as milk and canned and bottled goods. We also use one of the bins for all of our produce. This keeps our reusable bags from getting wet
Separate the Meat and Fish Designate specific bags for meats and fish. Wash these bags regularly—preferably after each shopping trip—to get rid of bacteria. If your bag is fabric, toss it in the washing machine with jeans, and if it's a plastic material, let it soak in a basin filled with soapy water and either the juice of half a lemon or about a quarter cup of vinegar.
Proper Storage When you get home from the store, don't just stuff the bags into a closet or a small, confined space. Let your bags air out so any moisture evaporates. A great solution is to hang a small clothesline in your laundry room or garage to pin up the bags when you're not using them. And on those warm summer days, why not rinse the bags out and hang them outside to dry?
Cara Smusiak writes on behalf of Naturally Savvy.com about how to live a more natural, organic and green lifestyle.
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