It’s time for Illinois to join the other states who are reconsidering whether reusable bags contribute to the spread of COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic threatened to put an end to state and city bans or fees on plastic bags, as concerns about possibly spreading the novel coronavirus meant states banned the practice of using reusable bags, lest it put baggers at risk. Several states, including Illinois, suspended the five- or 10-cent fees that cities and states had imposed on single-use plastic bags, or suspended the use of reusable bags. 

Now, however, states are moving forward again. The Connecticut Department of Public Health determined that, given the most current scientific information available, reusable bags do not serve as a significant source of infection for COVID-19. The state has re-imposed its 10-cent fee for single-use bags. California reinstated its ban on plastic bags in late June. 

Plastic Free July is a worldwide movement asking people to take a pledge to avoid single-use plastic for a month, hoping that the habits become ingrained to last all year long. The group has enrolled 250 million participants in 177 countries, and its website offers practical tips to cut down on plastic. One simple way to start is to avoid using plastic bags and stop accepting them at stores. Putting groceries in plastic bags during each trip to the grocery store adds quickly to the overwhelming total of 100 billion plastic bags Americans use every year. Only 1% of those 100 billion actually get recycled. Worldwide; more than 1 million plastic bags end up in the trash every minute. 

Here’s an easy tip: Take your reusable bags to the grocery store and leave them in your trunk, or put them in the bottom of your grocery cart. In the checkout line, tell your checker and bagger just to put all items back in the cart without bags. Once you get outside the store, bag your groceries yourself. You just saved up to 30 single-use plastic bags from entering the waste system.

Art Spooner

Oak Park

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