The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a surge in disposables. This is caused by the necessary use of disposable medical equipment for our health workers and frontliners, and the rise in e-commerce activity and food deliveries. Some dining establishments have announced that they will temporarily disallow the use of reusable items as a safety precaution, while others have switched to disposable menus and cutlery for dine-in services to reduce risk of contamination. Several countries have also paused bans on single-use plastics or delayed implementation.
If unmanaged, the rising volume of disposables could offset the hard-earned gains of the waste management movement. Using the best available science, we lay out facts against fears on disposables and reusables to help guide your decisions during these uncertain times. We've listed several resources below for further reading.
As new research about COVID-19 emerges, we commit to keep you up-to-date and share recommendations as they come. Stay safe, seatizens!
Many thanks to our friends at WWF Philippines, Muni, Human Nature, PRRCFI, Wala Usik, Green Releaf, Benilde HiFi, Loop., and Sip for their helpful feedback and support.
Resources (arranged by publication date from newest to oldest):
Reusables: A #BetterNormal Approach to Plastic Waste (webinar) by Break Free From Plastic and Greenpeace Philippines, 13 July 2020
Cleaning and Disinfection for Households by the CDC, last updated 10 July 2020
The plastic pandemic is only getting worse during COVID-19 by Jacob Duer, 01 July 2020, World Economic Forum
About Cloth Face Coverings by the CDC, last updated 28 June 2020
Masks, gloves, and other coronavirus waste are starting to fill up our oceans by Talib Visram, 26 June 2020, Fast Company
It's official: Reusables are safe during COVID-19 by Joseph Winters, 26 June 2020, Grist
Health Expert Statement Addressing Safety of Reusables and COVID-19 by Greenpeace USA and UPSTREAM, 22 June 2020
How COVID-19 Spreads by the CDC, last updated 16 June 2020
Quarantine life offsets gains in drive vs plastic waste by Jhesset Enano, 14 June 2020, Inquirer
The COVID-19 pandemic is unleashing a tidal wave of plastic waste by Shashank Bengali, 13 June 2020, Los Angeles Times
Singapore households generated additional 1,334 tonnes of plastic waste during circuit breaker: Study by Navene Elangovan, 05 June 2020, Today
COVID-19 and our plastic use by Aliyya Sawadjaan, 29 May 2020, BusinessWorld
Reusable packaging in the time of COVID-19 by Tom Szaky, 18 May 2020, Green Biz
Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1 by van Doremalen et al., 16 April 2020, The New England Journal of Medicine
Plastics: The Coronavirus could reset the clock by Grzegorz Peszko, 07 April 2020, World Bank
Stability of SARS-CoV-2 in different environment conditions by Chin et al., 02 April 2020, The Lancet Microbe
Plastic Pollution during the Pandemic: Reusables are Still Safe by Surfrider Foundation, 23 March 2020
Plastic Pollution, Reuse, and COVID-19 by UPSTREAM Solutions, 17 March 2020
Can the zero-waste movement survive the coronavirus? by LV Anderson, 11 March 2020, Grist
Tim Hortons stops accepting reusable mugs amid concerns over coronavirus by Geoff Zochodne, 6 March 2020, Financial Post
No swiping fries, ditch the reusable cup. Restaurants’ coronavirus measures go beyond extra elbow grease by Amelia Lucas, 6 March 2020, CNBC
You can't get your own mug filled at Starbucks anymore because of coronavirus by Chauncey Alcorn, 6 March 2020, CNN Business