Reusable containers safe to use during coronavirus pandemic, doctors and scientists say

Emma Gatten
Several cafes have stopped accepting reusable cups during the pandemic  - Alamy
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter ..

Reusable containers are safe to use during the pandemic, more than 100 scientists, doctors and academics have said, amid concern over the return of single-use plastics. 

As long as they are thoroughly washed with soap and hot water, tupperware, reusable coffee cups and cutlery have a similar risk to their single-use alternatives, according to a joint statement organised by Greenpeace. 

It comes after the plastics industry lobbied the EU to drop its ban on certain single-use plastics because of the pandemic. 

Several coffee shops including Starbucks, Caffè Nero and Pret a Manger, have all halted the use of reusable cups over hygiene concerns.

The Government has also paused its ban on plastic straws and stirrers during the pandemic, citing the pressure on business. 

Meanwhile, the rise in personal protective equipment has led to a surge in plastic waste globally, with masks and gloves finding their way into oceans in Europe and Asia. 

“Reuse and refill systems are an essential part of addressing the plastic pollution crisis and moving away from a fossil fuel-based economy,” says the statement, which was signed by experts from 18 countries. 

It adds: “Based on the best available science and guidance from public health professionals, it is clear that reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene.”

The statement highlights that evidence suggests the virus is spread mainly via inhaling aerosolised droplets, rather than contact with contaminated surfaces.

It says disposable products present similar issues to reusable ones because either could become contaminated, and says cleaning with hot water and soap or detergent is sufficient to reduce the risk. 

Restaurants and cafes should use contact-free systems when customers are bringing their own kitchenware, the statement says. 

Professor Charlotte K. Williams, Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University, who signed the statement, said: "I hope we can come out of the Covid-19 crisis more determined than ever to solve the pernicious problems associated with plastics in the environment.  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."