SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA)- Bans on plastic bags were gaining traction around the nation before the pandemic changed our lives. Now, many stores are encouraging shoppers to leave the reusable bags at home to avoid passing along germs to workers. So what other ways is the crisis affecting our environment? We spoke with some environmentalists in Central Illinois to find out.
As more people begin to wear protective gear to stay safe from the illness, more people are also disregarding the responsible way to dispose of the items.
“Right now, we have a current crisis we have to focus on but that doesn’t necessarily mean we need to go back to using disposable plastic for everything,” said UIS Environmental Studies Assistant Professor Anne-Marie Hanson. “If you’re going to use disposable gloves or mask, throwing them in the parking lot of the supermarket isn’t going to help anyone. The problem is actually more dangerous than if you used cloth masks that you will wash when you get back home.”
Mask and gloves are not the only items raising concerns, experts say wipes that many are using as a quick way to clean are a nightmare for the environment if they are not thrown away properly.
“Don’t flush them. Wet wipes clog pipes in your home, they clog pipes in sewers, and they cause lots of problems for the different water treatment facilities,” said Jennifer Walling, Executive Director of the Illinois Environmental Council. We do not want to be dealing with clogged pipes and people having to come in to your home right now because you flushed wet wipes so those go in the trash as well.”
On top of the hard to decompose personal protective equipment (PPE), some stores like Meijer and Hy-Vee have asked that you leave your reusable bag at home. Experts say there are still eco-friendly solutions to contain your items.
“If the reusable bag isn’t permitted in the store, I ask the worker to put the items back in my cart then I bag it either outside my bike or my car or if I’m walking, just put it in the bag outside. Making sure that worker doesn’t touch the bag is important and for your own health and safety, make sure you wash that reusable bag,” Walling said.
Others have raised concerns about the amount of chemicals people are using to disinfect their homes and belongings. Experts say soap and hot water have been proven to work against fighting the coronavirus and can be used for cleaning.