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The environment and COVID-19

Since March, we've been using plastic bags at the store. Officials at ecomaine said it's too soon to tell the environmental impact of the pandemic.

MAINE, USA — Plastic bags of course have a big impact on the environment. According to MarineSafe, a non-governmental organization based in the UK, single-use plastic bags take about 20 years to break down in the ocean.

Ecomaine encourages people to continue to re-use and recycle as much as possible during the pandemic.

"We're really not following the state's waste hierarchy for solid waste as well as we were beforehand," Matt Grondin from ecomaine said.

That's because reusable shopping bags are not allowed at many stores because of the COVID-19 pandemic. George Parmenter with Hannaford sustainability says a few weeks ago the store's policy changed. People can now use their own bags if they bag their own groceries, or purchase new reusable bags. This is the same policy as other stores like Shaw's.

Parmenter said this is moving towards sustainability, but it's not where the state was before the pandemic started.

"In Maine, there was a plastic bag ban. So we were all on the road to trying to bring our reusable bags every time we went to the store," Parmenter said.

Last Thursday, Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah also spoke about reusable bags since stores are now allowing people to bring in their own bags.

"And to the extent that folks are worried about that, one of the safest things to do with one of those reusable plastic bags is to wipe them down with a little bit of soap or detergent and that should in principle get rid of all the COVID-19 on them," Dr. Shah said.

Grondin said plastic bags aren't the only environmental factors affected by the pandemic. There's also a shortage of paper bags and cardboard boxes because so many people are ordering items online.