Plastic Free July 2020: Day 14 – Reusable Bags (During COVID)


For those who have been dipping their toes in the zero waste pool for a while, you probably already know the significance of reusable bags, and how environmentally-caustic single-use plastic bags are.

But if you’re new, or need a refresher, check out our Day 6: Reusable Bags post from the 2018 Plastic-Free July Challenge.

But in July 2020, reusable bags have been virtually banned in most supermarkets due to COVID-19 precautions. Even worse, many stores have reverted to non-recyclable plastic bags over compostable paper bags.

Here’s what I do to get around this.

How to use reusable bags during COVID-19

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I bring a cloth napkin and wipe the shopping cart handle down with hand sanitizer (which I made with vodka and aloe vera). I load my cart with groceries like normal, but when I go to check out, I ask the cashier not to bag my groceries at all, just to return them to the cart (or better, allow me to put them back into the cart myself.)

Then I roll the shopping cart back outside. If I walked or rode my bike to the store, I take my reusable bags out of my purse and load them in the parking lot, wipe down the cart again, and return it. If I had to drive, I keep the bags (or sometimes empty boxes) in my trunk, load the groceries directly into them, THEN wipe down the cart and return it.


This has worked for me 100% of the time since the new ordinances have been established. As long as the store allows you to bring the shopping cart to you car, there’s really no reason to bag them in plastic at the checkout counter. Just bag them afterwards.

I hope this tip helps! I have seen so many zero wasters struggling to stay plastic-free during COVID-19, and this method has really helped me!



  1. Hey there! I was wondering if you have a list of California stores that still allow reusable bags for bulk items during these times?? Thanks for gathering and sharing the info you do!


  2. We in the UK haven’t been prevented from bringing our reusable bags to the shops, but one supermarket, Aldi, has been actively encouring us to take our shopping outside to pack it up rather than using the packing counter as we would normally.


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