Over 125 health experts defend safety of reusables during COVID-19 pandemic

by Greenpeace International

The health experts  — joined by Greenpeace USA and UPSTREAM, both members of the Break Free From Plastic movement — emphasize that disposable products are not inherently safer than reusables and that reusable systems can be utilized safely during the pandemic by employing basic hygiene.

“Public health must include maintaining the cleanliness of our home, the Earth,” said Dr. Mark Miller, former director of research at the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center. “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.”

The statement endorsed by scientists, academics, doctors, and specialists in public health and food packaging safety around the world, notes that household disinfectants have been proven effective at disinfecting hard surfaces, such as reusables. The statement follows several temporary pauses on plastic bans across the world and increased bans on reusables by shops amid COVID-19.

“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. “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. To keep people safe and protect our planet, we should listen to the best available science instead of underhanded marketing from the plastic industry.” 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the plastic industry has worked to boost profits and demonize reusables. Pauses on plastic bans followed a significant PR push from the plastics industry, using older industry-funded research to claim that reusables are more dangerous than disposables during COVID-19. 

“Over the past few months, there’s been a lot of conflicting information about how the virus is spread, but we now know that surfaces are not the main way we’re exposed,” said Matt Prindiville, CEO of UPSTREAM – a nonprofit sparking innovative solutions to plastic pollution. “Plastic harms our health along the entire supply chain. Fortunately, COVID is easily destroyed by proper washing, so restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses can still serve us using reusable items in ways that protect health without harming the environment.” 

The full statement signed by health experts can be found here.

Did you know most coffee beans are packed in burlap bags, a woven fabric made from the jute plant? Coffee shops often throw empty bags “away,” even though the woven fabric is soft and durable.

Enter Rescue Recycle Reuse (also known as R3), the nonprofit organization rescues coffee sacks from local coffee roasters and shops in Los Angeles, CA, and upcycles them into reusable bags that are 100 percent compostable.

Watch how they do it in the video below.

R3 Founder Suzanne Titus sees their reusable bags as a beautiful plastic pollution solution.

“Plastic bags are everywhere,” says Titus. “We see plastics as we drive down the freeway. Hundreds of thousands of plastic bags are used around the world every day, and plastic is not good for our Earth or ourselves.”

R3 has made over 3,500 bags since 2012 and has sold them to gift shops, grocery stores, and college book stores. New in 2019, the bags are now available online.

Titus is thrilled with the success of the bags, and says she will continue to rescue coffee sacks, create bags, and donate profits to environmental organizations, fulfilling the R3 mission.

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