Pre-pandemic, Scottsdale resident Andi Barness-Rubin turned heads at grocery stores for wiping down the handles, baby seat – virtually her entire shopping cart – with the store-provided cleaning wipes.
Mid-pandemic, Barness-Rubin continues to turn shoppers’ heads but for a different, more eye-catching reason: the bold, bright-blue plastic cart liner she invented called Cart Safe.
“When I’m walking through the store, people will stop me and go, ‘Oh my gosh, why didn’t I think of that?’ Or, ‘Genius! Where did you get that?’” Barness-Rubin said. “It’s not hard to miss as I’m coming down the aisle.”
Cart Safe liners are recyclable and cover the entire cart, including the handle. Its patented design makes it easy to use.
“I feel like this is really going to take off,” Barness-Rubin said. “I know that this isn’t going to go away, especially because I have a patent on it. No one will ever be able to do what I’m doing and I think that part feels the best.”
Starting in April, Barness-Rubin designed, patented and brought Cart Safe to market within 90 days.
The Cart Safe liners are intended to add an extra layer of protection and give shoppers a peace of mind.
“There’s studies that say that the shopping carts are more dirty and disgusting than public toilets,” Barness-Rubin said.
According to a 2012 University of Arizona study published in “Food Protection Trends,” cart surfaces had far more bacteria than what they measured in more than 100 public restrooms.
“The amounts of bacteria found on than than surfaces found in public restrooms,” said Dr. Charles Gerba, Professor of Virology at the University of Arizona’s Department of Environmental Science.
In a sample of 85 random shopping carts, researchers found that 50 percent carried E. Coli and 72 percent contained coliform bacteria.
“When you think about chicken juices or a baby’s diaper that was sitting in the cart before you, or the birds that are pooping on it while it’s sitting in the parking lot ... I was always the person that took the wipes and wipe down the handle,” Andi-Barness said.
“The coronavirus kind of made us think about everything – everything in your cart and not just where you put your hands and where you put your kids,” she continued. “It definitely made me think about my routine and how I was keeping me and my family safe.”
At the start of the pandemic, many shoppers wiped and disinfected their groceries before putting them away.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since deemed there is a “very low risk” of catching the virus from surfaces, including grocery packaging, they do recommend that shoppers disinfect the cart – a step most stores have taken on themselves – and use disinfecting wipes if available.
“People that have immune disorders, they have to be really, really careful about germs and bacteria,” Barness-Rubin said. “There’s people that have a child that can’t afford to be sick, so they know they have to do everything they can.”
So far, Barness-Rubin has sold more than 400 Cart Safe liners across the country.
“We’re getting a lot of people that know that this is just an extra layer of protection,” she said of her customers. “But I feel like I have to educate people as to what it is and that it even exists. We’re doing a lot of advertising just trying to get to get the word out.”
The liners are made from durable LDPE, or low-density polyethylene, a No. 4 plastic recognized by the FDA as a safe barrier from microbes.
Shoppers can dispose the Cart Safe liner in the recycle collection bins found at many grocery store entrances or reuse them.
“I reuse mine. When I’m done with it, I just Lysol it all over, and then you can use it again,” Barness-Rubin said. “Each bag gets at least three uses out of it.”
Shoppers can also hand-wash the liner in warm soapy water and line dry.
In addition to pursuing a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for Cart Safe, Barness-Rubin is currently working on another reusable cart liner product.
“We’re working on a material liner that you can just throw in the washing machine,” she said. “I think that’s going to be huge.”