DiMaio and Wirths introduce legislation prohibiting reusable bags during coronavirus health emergency

DiMaio and Wirths introduce legislation prohibiting reusable bags during coronavirus health emergency

John DiMaio

TRENTON, N.J. – To further protect the public’s health and prevent the spread of germs during the coronavirus outbreak, Assemblymen John DiMaio and Hal Wirths are introducing legislation (A3931) to prohibit reusable carryout bags in grocery stores during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

“Reusable bags, just like any purchases that are brought home and then back to the store, could be contaminated with the coronavirus and we just can’t risk it. The health of our citizens, especially our most vulnerable populations, is our number one priority,” explained DiMaio.

DiMaio noted that the governor signed a bill (A3865) in March that bans stores from accepting returns of groceries and other purchases during, and for 30 days following, a state of emergency declared in response to COVID-19.

Harold J. Wirths

“Some grocery stores have already banned reusable bags during this time because they wanted to limit exposure to germs and viruses coming from the outside,” said Wirths (R-Sussex). “We need this legislation to override single-use bag bans in municipalities that may not be considering the health consequences for their customers. It also gives stores a tool to stop the spread of germs from reusable bags.”

DiMaio and Wirths’ bill suspends local ordinances concerning the provision of single-use plastic carryout bags and prohibits reusable bags in stores during, and for 30 days after, the coronavirus public health emergency and state of emergency. New Jersey grocery stores and food service businesses would be required to post a notice at each entrance notifying customers that they are not permitted to carry reusable bags in order to control the spread of the coronavirus.

A 2011 study from the University of Arizona and Loma Linda University found bacteria in 99 percent of the reusable bags they tested. A group that represents the U.S. plastic bag manufacturing and recycling industry reported that as many as nine out of 10 people who go to grocery stores are at risk of infection because of contaminated reusable bags that cross-contaminated another surface. In fact, an outbreak of viral gastroenteritis among a girls’ soccer team in Oregon was traced to a reusable grocery bag.

The Assemblymen introduced their legislation Thursday.

As of Thursday afternoon, the number of coronavirus cases in the state rose to 51,027 with 1,700 deaths.