I have had to make a lot of adjustments due to Covid-19.
I think anyone attempting to live more low-waste would agree with that assessment. While I’ve done my best to minimize my consumption of plastic products, it’s been far from perfect. Before Covid-19, living plastic free was by no means easy, but it was much more possible to achieve. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen shifts towards reusable bag bans at grocery stores, the shut down of bulk bins, and elimination of reusable mug programs at coffee shops, among others.
Now we know those changes don’t actually make a difference in reducing transmission.
A collective statement by over one hundred healthcare professionals and experts was released in late June. This open letter to the public advises on safety protocol related to the use of reusable items during the Covid-19 pandemic. The health expert statements begins by recognizing the importance of reusable items and refill programs in the fight against plastic pollution and the fossil fuel industry.
The document states that the virus primarily spread via inhalation of aerosolized droplets, not through surface contact. In fact, they assert that aerosolized droplets are the only confirmed method of transmission thus far. The health experts go on to confirm that single-use and disposable items carry the same risk as reusable items in regards to their capacity to be contaminated. They point out that unlike many disposable items, reusable versions are easily cleaned. You can read the whole thing here.
We now have health experts supporting the discontinuation of bans on reusables.
This is where we need to use our collective voice. I have been emailing a variety of companies and lawmakers to raise awareness about this advancement and to demonstrate the importance in returning to our fight against single-use plastics. Here’s an example of the statement I’ve been sending:
I am writing to express my concern about the continued ban of reusable bags and paused service of bulk bins in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. While I support the decision of Whole Foods to initiate these precautions at the start of the pandemic, we now have more information about the primary transmission routes of this virus.
This past week, a group of over one hundred scientists with backgrounds such as immunology, epidemiology, and experience in healthcare collectively produced a statement about status of Covid-19 transmission via reusables, entitled “Health Expert Statement Addressing Safety of Reusables and Covid-19.” These scientists provide their expert opinions that the virus spreads primarily through the inhalation of aerosolized droplets rather than through surface contact. They also state that disposable products pose the same risks as reusable products, except that reusable products are easily cleaned.
As we know, about 8 million tons of plastic enters the oceans every year. Continuing the ban of reusable bags and disruption of service to the bulk bins adds to this problem. The recent expert testimony concludes that these precautions are not warranted based on our improved understanding of this virus.
I hope you will take into account the scientific information provided. I also ask that you release a statement reflecting this advancement of knowledge to your customers, so that people can make informed decisions that do not reflect previous misinformation suggesting that reusables pose a threat.
Please email businesses or lawmakers you think might benefit from this information. Anyone is welcome to utilize the example text above! I’ve underlined the portions that would need to be changed depending on your recipient.
Some ideas about whom to contact: grocery stores, coffee shops, restaurants that offer take-out, state governor, members of congress, local politicians.
This is by no means to minimize the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, based on the conclusions of the health experts cited here, it appears that we are receiving no benefit in reduced transmission through these bans on reusables. Our best method of flattening the curve will be wearing masks and social distancing.