Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Columns

March 24, 2013

03/24/2013 — Lee Ward: Don't give up on cloth grocery bags, just wash them

ASHLAND — Using recyclable grocery bags is one of my small ways to help the environment.

I don’t always remember to use them, but I keep them in my car and I do my best.

I also use them for other things — sometimes I need to tote a weird variety of stuff into the office and I don’t realize I need a bag until I get to the car, so I grab one.

I’ve heard of people who complain because they have acquired too many bags; they end up just taking up space in their home. Some people who find themselves with too many such bags have gotten the idea to use them to store Christmas decorations or organize hobby gear or just use as an overnight bag. All valid uses.

During the last four years or so, I have used them enough I’ve worn out three and I promptly bought more.

There are some who resist using a reusable grocery bag.

A Scripps Howard News Service story said critics of the bags claim people buy them and, like me, often forget to use them.

“When you factor in the way the bags are used — or, in this case, not used — they actually have a larger carbon footprint than the plastic variety,” critics claimed.

The story included some interesting statistics about reusable grocery bags:

‰Thirty-nine percent of grocery shoppers own them, according to a recent study by McOrr Research.

‰A cotton bag has to be used 131 times to equal the environmental impact of producing one plastic bag, finds the UK Environmental Agency.

‰Plastic bags can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.

I still couldn’t think of any drawback to reusable bags, until I read this: The Social Science Research Network published a report claiming reusable bags are breeding grounds for bacteria; after a ban on plastic bags went into effect in San Francisco in 2007, emergency-room admissions related to bacteria jumped 25 percent.

Yikes.

And I mean that, especially after having been hospitalized for a week because of a bacterial infection.

However, after my initial panic, common sense set in. All you have to do is wash the bags every now and then. It’s a small price to pay for helping the environment, even just a little bit.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.

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