Reusable Bags Are Back in New Hampshire

Reusable Bags Are Back in New Hampshire
Reusable grocery backs are making a slow comeback from the pandemic.

Pandemic progress for food retail?

The governor of New Hampshire, Chris Sununu, this week lifted the state’s ban on reusable plastic bags for use by grocery shoppers. The state imposed its ban in March — one of the earliest states to do so — as the pandemic began to spread through the country and officials worried about the health risk of those reusable bags.

Near the start of 2020, New Hampshire lawmakers moved to ban the single-use plastic bags for shoppers, and to require retailers to charge fees of up to 50 cents for consumers who didn’t bring reusable bags to stores. New Hampshire still stands as the only state in New England without a mask mandate.

In announcing the end of the reusable bag ban, Sununu, a Republican, encouraged consumers to show respect to food retail workers by washing the bags. Proponents of the lifting of the ban reportedly want Sununu to require food retail customers to bag their own groceries to further reduce the risk to food retail workers.

The pandemic-related decision comes amid larger efforts to encourage the use of non-plastic bags in the interests of helping the environment. Earlier in July, for instance, The Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners — with founding partners CVS Health, Target and Walmart — said it was looking to identify, test and implement viable design solutions and models to more sustainably serve the purpose of the current retail bag. Kroger and Walgreens have also joined this newly formed Consortium to Reinvent the Retail Bag.

According to research, the average time a bag is used is 12 minutes, and of the 100 billion plastic bags used each year in the United States less than 10% of them are recycled. 

Eight states have a reusable bag mandate or a ban of plastic bags, several other states do, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Those states are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont. Various other states are considering bag proposals.

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