This letter is in response to Mr. Morrison’s letter published on Dec. 31, titled “Reusable bags not a great alternative.” We are a coalition of local business and nonprofit leaders committed to building a stronger, safer and more resilient New Orleans through a Reusable Bag Ordinance. Mr. Morrison used a flawed 2010 plastics industry-sponsored study to make the specious argument that reusable bags present health risks while completely ignoring the enormous economic, health and environmental benefits they provide.
The study Mr. Morrison cites was funded by the American Chemistry Council, a trade association representing North American chemical and plastic bag manufacturers, which used a very small sample set of 84 reusable bags.
While it is true that microbes were found on over half the bags sampled, 97 percent of the individuals interviewed for the study stated they never washed their bags. Even the lead author of that study, University of Arizona microbiologist Michael Gerba, states the findings do not suggest that reusable bags present any threat of outbreak of disease.
Yes, reusable bags may very well contain bacteria after use, just as our kitchen cutting boards and countertops do. A couple of common-sense habits will eliminate the germs. First, designate reusables for just the grocery store. Second, wash regularly. Like dishes, clothes and other items we use repeatedly, reusable bags require regular cleaning to prevent the threat of germs and bacterial growth.
While there are no real health concerns related to using reusable bags, consumers should be concerned about the health risks posed by plastic bags. New Orleans is an island surrounded by water: the Mississippi River, Lake Pontchartrain, the Gulf of Mexico, not to mention the many bayous and lagoons it contains. As a water city, we have a greater responsibility to protect our vital resources from the pollution of single-use disposables.
Plastic bags clog our sewers, litter our lakes, choke birds and marine life that commonly mistake it for food and ultimately contaminate our food chain and threaten the livelihoods of those working in our seafood industry.
Statistics show that one reusable bag can replace 700 single-use, disposable bags. When you bring your own bags to the store, think about how many plastic bags you are keeping out of your streets, parks and waterways.
We strongly believe reusable bags are not only safe but a great alternative to single-use, plastic bags. To learn more about this important issue, please join us on Jan. 21 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Habitat for Humanity ReStore, 2900 Elysian Fields Ave., for a free, educational public forum. We hope to see you there!
Reusable Bag Alliance, led by No Waste NOLA