white converse Reusable shopping bags need mo

Reusable shopping bags need monthly bath

How many times have you heard that phrase and wondered, “What can I do?” What could make a difference in fossil fuel use, litter across the landscape and mountains of trash in landfills?

Lots of people are turning to reusable bags when they shop. They may be reacting to estimates that hundreds of millions of plastic shopping bags are used once and thrown away every year. They may white converse believe (correctly, we think) that carrying a reusable bag to the supermarket or fa white converse rmers market is a way of acting locally.

The industry that produces those millions of bags every year is responding to consumer sentiment, ingrained by years of ad messages. Use it once and throw it away was long the unwritten mantra of Madison Avenue. From paper towels to fast foods, convenience ruled our disposable society.

Growing concern over the environment changed the message. The green twinkle in the ad executives eyes now is all about grass and trees (although, ultimately, it still about money). While the ads don push us all the way to World War II urgings to “use it up or make do,” they prompt us to buy stuff that “environmentally friendly” in its making or disposal.

And this is where those canvas, string and woven reusable bags come in. How better to show our concern for the Earth than to keep the hundreds even thousands of plastic bags we might use yearly out of the waste stream. Most bags feature some variant of the universal recycle symbol that identifies the bearer as someone who cares.

The problem comes when we use those bags too often, or store them carelessly. A study last spring in Canada of a “scientifically meaningful sample” of reusable and single use bags showed more than 60 percent of the reusables harbored bacteria. Nearly 30 percent passed the level considered safe for drinking water.

Health risks in the Canadian study included bacterial boils, allergic reactions, triggering of asthma attacks and ear infections. A recent smaller study involved swabbing 84 bags, and more than half contained bacteria, including coliform. That suggests the contamination came from meat or uncooked food.

This study was funded by the American Chemistry Council, whi white converse ch opposes a move in California toward a total ban on plastic shopping bags. We sidestep that debate and others on fees, mandates for biodegradable plastic and other waste cutting schemes.

Here is where the rest of the local action comes in. Reusable bags can hold water much better than plastic; they need to be washed regularly, either by hand or in the washer.

Washing removes virtually all the bacteria and greatly cuts the risk of spreading them. Give the same treatment to cloth lunch bags, and use bags that carry food for that purpose only.

Jason Bolton of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension says washing the bags at least once a month is key. He suggests having meats and uncooked goods wrapped separately before being placed in the reusable bags.

Enjoy the foods you love, and carry them in a way that makes you feel good. But make sure to guard yourself and your family against unwanted side effects from your efforts.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine membership funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates.

Police say driver in South Thomaston crash was drunk with three children in carFormer Howland police chief arrested in Wells on sex chargesFolksinger Mallett serenades UMaine graduates with ‘Garden Song’Investigation into former teacher accused of photographing female students ‘approaching halfway mark’Generational sea change sweeps Midcoast windjammer fleet

Candidate Cutler offers an unusual political dealA white potato subsidy for low income pregnant women? Not needed, and it would be dangerousStamp Out HungerLePage’s school grades should spark discussion of more than the grades themselvesMother Day

UMaine’s James drafted in sixth round by Vikings; Perillo gets deal with PackersFortuitous ‘safe’ call helps UMaine baseball team split with AlbanyLacey overcomes broken hand, wins on NEF XIII mixed martial arts cardSoderberg sparks victory as Bruins take 3 2 lead in series vs. Canadiens’It was right there and slipped through my hands': Brewer fighter defeated in MMA title bout

NOTES FROM A CORNER OF THE COUNTRY

Candidate Cutler offers an unusual political dealLIFE AS A WARDEN WIFEA walk with my motherSOONER OR LIGHTER

Sugar! More Addictive than Crack?!! Don Belie white converse ve the Hype!POLLWAYS

From Emily Cain mom, a unique campaign pitch

One in three homebuyers in US paid cash in 2014Mother’s Day misgivingsPentagon’s proposed pay cuts will be devastating’Daily Show’ comedian Wilmore to replace Colbert on Comedy CentralJacques Cousteau’s granddaughter urges Unity College graduates to fight for the environment