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With Bag Ban Nearing, Keep Your Reusables Clean (and E. Coli Free)

Austin is a little more than a month away from its plastic bag ban, and some questions are still up in the air.

The Austin City Council approved the change last year, and the Single-Use Carryout Bag Ordinance stipulates that single-use bags for sacking groceries will soon be phased out – meaning Austinites must make use of reusable grocery bags. And as a precaution, shoppers should make sure their bags see more than the checkout aisle – try the laundry room.

If you don't wash your reusable bags, they could harbor several kinds of bacteria, including E.coli.

"Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness," a paper by Jonathan Klick and Joshua Wright, looked at ER visits in San Francisco after a bag ban was implemented in 2007. It states:

“We find that ER admissions increase by at least one fourth relative to other California counties. Subsequent bans in other California municipalities resulted in similar increases. An examination of deaths related to intestinal infections shows a comparable increase.”

The good news? Washing reusable bags can reduce the bacteria by more than 99.9 percent.

The ban on single-use bags goes into effect March 1, although restaurants will be exempt and other businesses may apply for “hardship variances.”

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