What to do with plastic bags?

While the current pandemic may put a damper on handling of used plastic bags, they remain a waste source we must manage. Here are ways to reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle your plastic bags, now and after post-COVID-19.

What can I do with plastic bags now and post-pandemic?

REPLACE plastic bags with reusable shopping bags whenever possible. Please note that some stores are not allowing customers to bring in reusable bags at this time. If this is the case, please consider placing your purchased items back into the shopping cart at checkout, unbagged, and then transfer them to reusable bags at your car. As always, reusable bags should be cleaned often and allowed to dry completely between uses.

REUSE plastic shopping bags by taking them back to the store and refilling them with groceries. (NOTE: During the current pandemic, this may not be allowed.) Make sure the bags are clean and dry. For added safety, allow used bags to sit for three days before reuse. As always, please follow local and state public health guidelines, and do not shop or take anything to a store if there’s reason to suspect that anyone in your household has been exposed to COVID-19. Being green is important, but so is protecting store employees so they can continue to provide essential services.

REPURPOSE bags around the house. Larger plastic bags can be used as trash liners for small waste baskets. Smaller bags, such as bread bags, can be used for food storage or for pet waste disposal.

RECYCLE empty, clean plastic bags, such as shopping bags, dry cleaning bags, shipping “pillows,” bubble wrap, and plastic wrappers from cases of water bottles and other drinks. Recycle plastic bags in take-back bins in local retail stores, such as your local grocery store and Walmart, Target, and Lowe’s. Check with stores to see whether they are accepting plastic bags during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some stores have temporarily halted collection of plastic bags and wraps, and some folks are not comfortable venturing out. If either is the case, please consider collecting your plastic bags and wraps at home until events change. Plastic bags can be bagged together into tight bundles that take up little space. For locations near you, visit Plastic Film Recycling.

How do I clean my reusable bags?

Keep your family healthy by washing your reusable bags regularly. Fabric bags can be placed into a washing machine or washed by hand with laundry detergent and placed into the dryer or hung to dry.  To clean reusable plastic bags, wipe with a disinfecting wipe or spray, or wash them by hand in warm, soapy water. Air-dry indoors or outdoors in the sun.

For added safety, clean bags after each use and especially after bringing meat or seafood home.

Photo: NoDerog | E+ | Getty Images Plus

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