Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Reusable Cups, Bags and Containers Can Be Safe During COVID-19, Scientists Say

Science

Scientists say reusable cups, bags and containers are safe to use as long as people employ basic hygiene. Igishevamaria / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The response to the global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has seen many states and countries reverse course on their efforts to reduce the ubiquity of single-use plastics. Now, it seems single-use plastics are a mainstay of the front lines in the fight against spreading COVID-19.


Seeing the troubling rise in plastic use and disposable items, a consortium of scientists penned a statement that was published Monday saying that reusable containers do not increase the risk of transmission, as The Independent reported. Whether or not that means states will uphold their plastic bag bans and Starbucks will allow customers to use bring-your-own cups is still unclear.

The statement was signed by 119 scientists from 18 different countries. It includes epidemiologists, virologists, biologists, chemists and doctors, who all agree that the best available science and guidance from public health professionals says reusable cups, bags and containers are perfectly safe to use as long as people employ simple and basic hygiene, according to The Guardian.

"Single-use plastic is not inherently safer than reusables, and causes additional public health concerns once it is discarded," the statement warns, as Cambridge News in the UK reported.

Single-use plastics are on the rise as well, as more and more protective gear is used and discarded. The pandemic has ushered in a rise in the use of protective masks, gloves, face shields, overalls, dividing screens between store staff and customers, and other items, as The Times of Israel reported.

The notion of plastics as a safer alternative to reusable containers is a myth perpetuated by the plastics industry, argue campaigners for eco-conscious groups, according to The Guardian.

"It's been shocking to witness the plastic industry take advantage of the pandemic to promote throwaway plastics and scare people away from reusable bags and other items," said Greenpeace USA global project leader Graham Forbes, as The Times of Israel reported.

"It is crucial for businesses and governments to know that as they reopen, reusable systems can be deployed safely to protect both our environment and workers and customers," he added. "To keep people safe and protect our planet, we should listen to the best available science instead of underhanded marketing from the plastic industry."

Charlotte Williams, a chemistry professor at Oxford University and one of the signatories of the letter, hopes the pandemic will encourage the public to strive even further to solving plastic pollution issues.

"I hope we can come out of the COIVID-19 crisis more determined than ever to solve the pernicious problems associated with plastics in the environment," Williams said, as The Independent reported. "In terms of the general public's response to the COVID crisis, we should make every attempt to avoid over-consumption of single-use plastics, particularly in applications like packaging."

According to Cambridge News, the experts suggest people wash reusable containers with hot water and detergent or soap, while also remembering to frequently wash their hands with soap and hot water or an alcohol-based hand rub, and to avoid touching their eyes, mouth or nose.

The statement went to say that retailers should follow similar practices when handling reusable containers and try to use contact-free systems for customers' personal bags and cups whenever possible.

The scientists argue that taking care of the waste crisis is of equal importance to the COVID-19 crisis.

"Public health must include maintaining the cleanliness of our home, the Earth," said Dr. Mark Miller, former director of research at the U.S. National Institutes of Health's Fogarty International Center to The Times of Israel. "The promotion of unnecessary single-use plastics to decrease exposure to the coronavirus negatively impacts the environment, water systems, and potential food supply compared to the safe use of reusable bags, containers and utensils."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An elephant at Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island. In Defense of Animals

By Marilyn Kroplick

The term "zoonotic disease" wasn't a hot topic of conversation before the novel coronavirus started spreading across the globe and upending lives. Now, people are discovering how devastating viruses that transfer from animals to humans can be. But the threat can go both ways — animals can also get sick from humans. There is no better time to reconsider the repercussions of keeping animals captive at zoos, for the sake of everyone's health.

Read More Show Less
Isiais now approaches the Carolinas, and is expected to strengthen into a hurricane again before reaching them Monday night. NOAA

Florida was spared the worst of Isaias, the earliest "I" storm on record of the Atlantic hurricane season and the second hurricane of the 2020 season.

Read More Show Less
A campaign targeting SUV advertising is a project between the New Weather Institute and climate charity Possible. New Weather Institute

To meet its climate targets, the UK should ban advertisements for gas-guzzling SUVs, according to a report from a British think tank that wants to make SUVs the new smoking, as the BBC reported.

Read More Show Less

A company from Ghana is making bikes out of bamboo.

By Kate Whiting

Bernice Dapaah calls bamboo "a miracle plant," because it grows so fast and absorbs carbon. But it can also work wonders for children's education and women's employment – as she's discovered.

Read More Show Less
Scientists say it will take a massive amount of collective action to reverse deforestation and save society from collapse. Big Cheese Photo / Getty Images Plus

Deforestation coupled with the rampant destruction of natural resources will soon have devastating effects on the future of society as we know it, according to two theoretical physicists who study complex systems and have concluded that greed has put us on a path to irreversible collapse within the next two to four decades, as VICE reported.

Read More Show Less
Researchers have turned to hydrophones, instruments that use underwater microphones to gather data beyond the reach of any camera or satellite. Pxfuel

By Kristen Pope

Melting and crumbling glaciers are largely responsible for rising sea levels, so learning more about how glaciers shrink is vital to those who hope to save coastal cities and preserve wildlife.

Read More Show Less

Trending

The fact is, cats play different predatory roles in different natural and humanized landscapes. PIXNIO / CCO

By William S. Lynn, Arian Wallach and Francisco J. Santiago-Ávila

A number of conservationists claim cats are a zombie apocalypse for biodiversity that need to be removed from the outdoors by "any means necessary" – coded language for shooting, trapping and poisoning. Various media outlets have portrayed cats as murderous superpredators. Australia has even declared an official "war" against cats.

Read More Show Less