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Reusable Bags Restored in New Hampshire!

07 • 27 • 2020

Reusable Bags Restored in New Hampshire!

The New Hampshire Chapter worked with our Northeast Regional Manager and residents across the State to terminate the temporary reusable bag ban Governor Sununu set in motion at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With full deference to the public health crisis we continue to face and the need to prioritize public health, based on the best available science (⬅︎ click to read a letter on this topic signed by over 100 experts) we are asking Governor Sununu to restore the use of reusable bags and advance a better bagging model that protects workers, the public and the environment.

JULY 28, 2020 UPDATE

➜ NEW HAMPSHIRE RETAIL AND GROCERY WORKERS: Please fill out this survey to help us better understand your bagging concerns, impressions on safety, and any need for more information. 

JULY 27, 2020 UPDATE


Governor Chris Sununu today tweeted that he is issuing an E.O. to repeal the ban on reusable bags!


Thank you to all who took action to help bring this science-based decision about.

Emergency Order #60 is very straight forward and to the point; effective immediately, the new Order terminates Emergency Order #10 that banned reusable bags.

We're grateful for the science-backed Order repealing the reusable bag ban, and we hope that stores will go the extra mile to implement best practices that protect workers, the public, and the environment by encouraging shoppers to use reusable bags—and regardless of the bag used, to bag their own items. This limits common touchpoints out of an abundance of caution and importantly, helps maintain the physical distancing we know is needed to prevent virus spread. 

Check out media coverage:

From NHPR (with quotes from Surfrider Foundation NE Regional Manager, Melissa Gates)

From WMUR-TV (featuring Surfrider NH volunteer, Christina Dubin!)


We will continue to participate in the public comment sessions to ask the Task Force to update their Retail Guidance document to reflect these best practices for bagging. Having this guidance implemented would go a long way toward helping workers focus on the real risks for COVID-19 transmission, which we know is close person-to-person contact and not surfaces.


JULY 24, 2020 UPDATE

On July 24, our Regional Manager provided the following statement and template language to the Governor's Task Force by request:

In addition to recommending to the Governor that based upon the best available science and public health expert recommendations he immediately terminate Emergency Order #10, and if need be modify the retail guidance linked in Emergency Order # 52 Exhibit B, the Surfrider Foundation New Hampshire Chapter requests that the Governor issue a new Emergency Order to restore reusable bags:

Pursuant to Section (X) of Executive Order 2020-04, it is hereby ordered that effective immediately that

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through close person-to-person contact at grocery and retail stores, and to promote and secure the safety and protection of the people of New Hampshire, effective for the duration of the Emergency declared in Executive Order 2020-04, all grocery and retail stores in the State of New Hampshire, and any other establishment within this State offering items for sale that may be bagged at checkout, shall not require any employee to bag any item in a customer-provided bag, provided that no grocer or retail store and nothing in this order shall prohibit customers using reusable bags from doing so; such customers shall bag their own items where the employee of the retail establishment declines to do so. 

We additionally ask the Task Force to put forth new Retail guidance for bagging to replace any and all current recommendations for continuing a ban on reusable bags. 

  • Remove: Continue to prohibit the use of reusable bags.
  • Replace With: To limit close person-to-person contact, encourage customers to use reusable bags and to bag their own purchased items.

JULY 16, 2020 UPDATE

After hearing optimistic feedback from Governor Sununu's economic re-opening task force and public health committee liaison following public comments on July 16, 2020—all speaking to their assertions that the Governor is looking at the science regarding reusable bags and considering action—the Governor then contravened those statements during his weekly press conference later that same day stating that it's, “just not time” to allow reusable bags in New Hampshire. 

Despite the more than 100 emails he has received from Surfrider's action alert alone, the Governor claimed on July 16th he's not even thinking about reusable bags right now. 

He additionally said he doesn't want to be flexible here or “go backward” on reusable bags, as he thinks this will then lead to everyone asking for more flexibility across the board. He ended by saying he sees the ban on reusable bags as a “small sacrifice.” 

It's clear he's either not paying attention to the science, doesn't understand the threats of single-use plastic, he hasn't yet heard us loud enough on this—or all three! 

This is where YOU come in.

1. If you haven't yet, please participate in our action alert: We need to escalate our call for action here! If you have any issues using the alert system, please email us.

2. Please also share the alert with your NH friends and encourage them to participate and share. We need our voice to be louder calling for an end to the reusable bag ban! 

3. Call the Governor's chief of staff to ask that terminating the reusable bag ban in NH immediately be considered: (603) 271-2121 (you can leave a voicemail if no one answers). 

4. Plan to call in to the weekly Task Force public comment sessions, typically held on Thursdays from 11am - 12pm (check the schedule here). 

  • Call-in: 1-800-356-8278 
  • When prompted, enter Pin: 194499
  • When prompted, speak your name.
  • To request to speak, press 5*
  • When it is your turn to speak you will be unmuted. You will hear an automated voice saying “Your line has been unmuted.” That's your cue to speak your name, place of residence, and offer your comments!

Repeat our ask for termination of Emergency Order #10 banning reusable bags, and again call upon the Task Force to recommend this action to the Governor based on the best available science.

Remind the Task Force that implementing the model here in NH that worked well for Connecticut is a great idea; it protects baggers and cashiers as well as the public while restoring the right to use reusable bags! 

If you can't call, email (again): and; address your written comments to the Governor and ask that your email be sent to the public health committee. 

We need to keep the pressure on the task force to keep the pressure on the Governor to make a science-based decision here!


  • Ask the COS to remind the Governor that this decision should be based on science, not fear.
  • Let him know you were very disappointed in his July 16 remarks about reusable bags.
  • Share your favorite facts about why single-use plastics are no good, and how this pollution and the ban on reusable bags impact you. 
  • Ask the COS to let the Governor know that we have a working model for bagging from CT that protects workers and the rights of shoppers, and that we should implement this now. 
  • Let the Sununu Administration know that it is no “small sacrifice” to the planet or to our individual rights to have this ban on reusable bags forced upon us when science does not support it. 
  • Only 3 states took the drastic measure to ban reusable bags (MA, NH, IL); MA Public Health Commissioner Bharel rescinded the MA order on July 10, based on the best available science. 
  • It is unacceptable to maintain the ban to appease an unfounded fear that allowing reusable bags now would somehow open a floodgate for additional requests to speed reopening along unsafely (the Governor actually said this in his July 16th press conference!). 
  • The only thing unsafe here is the continued reliance on single-use plastic and a throwaway society, with no founding in science that this measure is doing anything at all to protect public health from COVID-19.
  • After its science-based approach to reopening thus far, this decision in NH just sticks out like a sore thumb. 
  • It is beyond time to terminate Emergency Order #10.

Thanks for considering taking action! 


►Check out the phase 2 retail reopening guidance, passed out of the Governor's Task Force on June 15th and currently under consideration by the Governor and the Public Health Committee. This guidance, spearheaded by Task Force member and NH Retail Association President and CEO (one of the top opponents to single-use plastic mitigation legislation and policy in NH), recommends maintaining the reusable bag ban.

Phase 2 retail guidance calls for:
➜Offer self-checkout and/or self-bagging options when possible ✅
➜Continue to prohibit the use of reusable bags. ❌

►Prohibiting reusable bags is a continuation of the Governor's Emergency Order #10 pursuant to Executive Order 2020-04, declaring the COVID-19 public health emergency.

➤With full deference to the public health crisis we continue to face, based on the best available science we will be asking the Task Force to remove the recommendation to continue the ban on reusable bags and to instead ask the Governor to rescind Emergency Order #10.

➤We asked that a new recommendation be made to implement protocols to protect frontline workers from being required to touch reusable bags while still allowing customers to bring them and bag their own groceries and protecting the environment (this is what CT Governor Lamont called for in his Executive Order 7N of March 26; that order was initially set to expire on May 15 but was extended by E.O.7NN, which expired on June 30, rendering the state of CT's statewide plastic bag tax law back in effect to incentivize reusable bags).

Learn more:

Read our official June 12 comment letter.