Reusable Bags Are Eco-Friendly– But Are They You-Friendly?

reusable bags

If you’re tired of figuring out what to do with your piles of plastic packaging, reusable shopping bags are the way to go. Not to mention, they’re great for the planet, too– but if you aren’t washing your reusable bags frequently, you could be hauling a whole lot more than a sense of eco-pride.

A new study found in Food Protection Trends discovered that reusable shopping bags carried tons of bacteria, with half containing coliform bacteria, and eight percent even containing E. coli. The author of the study, Charles Gerba, PhD, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, gathered a random sample of bags from California and Arizona grocery shoppers and found out through self-reports that most of the bags had never been washed– and were sometimes used for multiple tasks (food, gym clothes, etc). Shockingly, when meat juices were in bags that were stored in car trunks for just two hours, bacteria amounts rose tenfold. Fortunately, hand- or machine-washing reduces bag bacteria by nearly 99.9 percent.

The plastic-bag industry frequently uses studies similar to these as a reason to fight plastic-bag bans in cities across the U.S. that look to remove non-biodegradable ones from grocery stores. But you should continue using your reusable bags as long as you take these simple steps to ensure their cleanliness:

• Wash them frequently and dry them on high heat (or in the sun) to get rid of lingering germs.

• It’s alright to leave bags in the trunk, as long as you wash them prior to returning them to your vehicle so that any remaining bacteria doesn’t get the opportunity to proliferate.

• Use bags only for food. If you begin to have a collection of reusable bags, try separating the ones that will carry food alone from the ones responsible for carrying your dirty gym clothes.


Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Julie Magro

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