Hmm … Not sure what to think of this. The Percolator (which is labelled as a free market environmentalism blog) has a mini story on possible dangers of banning reusable plastic bags: http://percolatorblog.org/2012/08/21/the-health-costs-of-plastic-grocery-bag-bans/
They embed a Youtube video with an interview they did with Jonathan Klick into their post … I am embedding it here too.
They also link to an article “Assessment of the Potential for Cross-contamination of Food Products by Reusable Shopping Bags” Food Protection Trends, vol. 31, no. 8, pp. 508-513, August 2011 b David L. Williams, Charles P. Gerba, Sherri Maxwell, Ryan G. Sinclair. Alas, as is common, the article is not freely available, which is ironic in that it is being used to try to shape a public decision on whether or not to ban plastic bags.
There has been a running debate/discussion about the recent efforts to ban plastic bags in various jurisdictions. It has been a big topic of debate even in my local community – small town Davis, CA.
Some more on the bacteria angle can be seen in the following articles:
- Jason Tetro: Banning Plastic Bags Carries Germy Consequence
- Plastic bag ban kicks in July 1 (and a reminder to wash those …
- Plastic Bag Bans Lead to E-coli Deaths | Via Meadia
I know plastic bags are not really “the built environment” per se but this discussion seems to be of relevance here. Surfaces (e.g., the inside of a reusable shopping bag) can get covered in microbes. Some of those microbes can be dangerous. What should we do about that? One option in many cases is to clean the surfaces and this certainly seems possible for reusable bags. But another option is to use disposable surfaces (e.g, the sheets you see in hospital exam rooms; disposable gloves in hospitals, etc). In hospitals, which are known to have lots of nasty microbes, such precautions make a lot of sense. But for shopping? The risk of microbe based illness being transmitted via reusable bags is probably pretty low – but it might be high enough (as suggested by the video) that we need to think carefully about the reusable bag ban and what its effects are on pathogen transmission …