Mother Jones|July/August 2020
THE PLASTIC INDUSTRY is not going to let a crisis go to waste. In early February, when most Americans were just learning about the coronavirus, the bag manufacturer Novolex reported that the outbreak in China had caused paper bag shortages and speculated that cities’ plastic bag bans could disrupt supply chains. By late February, that narrative had taken a turn. When the spread of COVID-19 in the United States looked to be inevitable, industry groups found a new boogeyman: reusable bags.
On February 28, the Competitive Enterprise Institute posted on its website: “Whether reusable bags could become a significant carrier of the coronavirus remains to be seen, but there are good reasons to fear they will harbor other equally dangerous bacteria and viruses transmitted from carrying meat and produce.” Not long afterward, John Tierney, a former New York Times columnist, and a climate change denier wrote in an op-ed for the conservative think tank the Manhattan Institute, “Reusable tote bags can sustain the Covid-19 and flu viruses—and spread the viruses throughout the store.”
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