Scientists confirm reusable containers safe to use during coronavirus pandemic

"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​.​​"

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As countries and states relax their single-use plastic bans in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, there is an increase in plastic use and disposable items nationwide. In a statement signed by 119 scientist from 18 different countries including epidemiologists, virologists, biologists, chemists and doctors, they confirmed that reusable containers do not increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

As a worldwide effort to reduce single-use plastic waste slows down amid fears, scientists said “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​.” Scientists suggest cleaning reusable products with a detergent or soap and hot water and drying them completely. Dishwashers and washing machines are also effective methods of cleaning using the warmest appropriate water setting, the statement said.

“Available evidence indicates that the virus spreads primarily from inhaling aerosolized droplets, rather than through contact with surfaces,” the statement said.

While some studies have shown that the COVID-19 virus might remain infectious on surfaces for varying times depending on the material, scientists said that disposable and single-use plastic products present similar issues as reusable ones when it comes to virus transmission.

“To prevent transmission through objects and surfaces, one can assume that any object or surface in a public space—reusable or disposable—could be contaminated with the virus.”

Therefore, scientists said “single-use plastic is not inherently safer than reusables,” instead, it “causes additional public health concerns once it is discarded.”

The scientists’ statement encourages people to start using their reusable containers again.

“More and more of us own reusable cups and bottles to cut down on throwaway plastic and protect our wildlife, seas and rivers,” Nina Schrank, a campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said. “COVID-19 has changed many of our routines, so it’s great that more than 100 experts have reassured us that reusable containers can be safe for food, drinks and other groceries during the pandemic, if washed properly.”

Instead of letting COVID-19 have a negative impact on the environment, many conservationists urge people to “strive even further to solving plastic pollution issues.”

“As our old lives resume we must make time and space to protect and nurture healthier environments to ensure a healthier future for all,” Dr Jennifer Cole of Royal Holloway University said.

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