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COVID-19: Environmental groups call for return to reusable cups and bags
Environmental groups are calling on businesses to allow customers to bring reusable cups and bags, saying the novel coronavirus pandemic has caused a major setback in the plastic crisis.
Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, many companies refused to accept personal mugs and take-away containers over fears of the virus putting employees at risk and most grocery stores stopped packing reusable bags. But environmental groups like Surfrider Foundation Canada point to a statement signed by 125 international scientists and health professionals attesting to the safety of reusable containers in the COVID-19 era.
The statement says washing reusable dishes at high temperatures with additional sanitizing procedures will provide “more than adequate protection against virus transmission.”
It recommends businesses provide personal protective equipment for employees, require customers to wear masks, and employ contact-free systems for customers’ personal bags and cups.
Lilly Woodbury, a spokeswoman for Surfrider Foundation Canada, said during this pandemic people have been made to believe that plastics are a better choice to keep food sanitary.
“It’s a false narrative that is really massively widespread,” she said, adding there are no cases of surface contact transmission from using reusable containers.
“It’s beyond ridiculous. When I go to a coffee shop I have to beg them to do a contactless coffee transfer to my own mug rather than them handing me a single-use cup that they have touched.”
The B.C. CDC says it is up to businesses whether they allow reusable bags and cups, but many companies, like Starbucks for example, have opted to go back to using disposables.
In February, a Canadian government report found there are growing concerns that plastic pollution may adversely impact the health of the environment and humans. It lead to an announcement by Canada’s Environment Minister that single-use plastics would be banned by 2021 – a plan that may be on hold in the face of the pandemic while the government is focused on handling the demand for PPE.
The Surfrider Foundation is advocating for Canada to stay on course with its strategy on zero plastics. Woodbury also wants to see the responsibility for zero waste put on the plastics producers instead of being a consumer responsibility.
“People really need to see the connection between plastic production and the climate crisis and the pandemic.”
Woodbury is urging consumers to voice their concerns to local businesses and governments and let them know they want to use their reusable containers again.