NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the environment in many ways and now experts have several concerns.

When the pandemic first hit, the world pushed pause, and in many ways for the environment, that was a good thing.

“Global emissions were down by about 17%. Wildlife was exploring places they haven’t been in forever. Canals were cleaner,” said Nicole Brose with the Urban Green Lab in Nashville.

Brose said, unfortunately, as the economy reopened, a lot of those improvements have reversed. Many people have cut their recycling services to cut costs.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented amount of financial strain during this pandemic, and that’s really frustrating, especially for those of us who want to live more sustainably,” said Brose.

Then there are the bags.

To stay COVID safe, a lot of people started taking advantage of curbside pickup.

“So, everything comes individually wrapped in plastic and then wrapped in plastic again,” said Brose.

Stores like Walmart on Charlotte Pike posted signs saying, “per state and local order” reusable bags are not allowed, even at the self-checkout lanes.

“It is frustrating because there’s really no reason for it. If you’re the only one touching it, there’s no health benefit from it,” said Brose.

News4 asked Mayor John Cooper’s office for clarification on the rules.

“We always like people to be able to bring in their own reusable bags. If they bring them in, they should bag them themselves. We don’t want there to be any additional spread,” said Dr. Michael Caldwell, Metro’s Director of Health.

News4 contacted Walmart to see why it is banning reusable bags at self-checkout counters and whether it planned to change that. News4 has not received a response.

Even if you are using plastic bags and can’t afford to pay for recycling, there are still several steps you can take to help the environment.

  • You can drop recyclables off at free centers.
  • Take shorter showers and drive less.
  • You can turn your thermostat up a few degrees in the summer and down a few degrees during the winter.
  • If you get takeout, tell the restaurant you do not want single-serve utensils. is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, 4WARN weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from News4 Nashville.

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