If your effort to reduce your personal plastic use has fallen by the wayside in recent months, you’re not alone — reusable bags and containers have gotten a bad rap during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a new report shows that they can be a safe, effective way to tackle the global plastic pollution crisis.
The new report from Greenpeace USA, “Reusables Are Doable,” highlights various reusable programs globally that have continued or can be used during the COVID-19 pandemic by ensuring strong sanitization or contactless systems for cups and containers. The report seeks to assure retailers, restaurants and other large brands that a pandemic doesn’t need to mean shifting toward widespread disposable plastic. Indeed, 130 health experts have weighed in to reinforce the public health necessity of moving away from single-use plastic and to detail how reusables can be used safely during a pandemic.
“At a time when communities of color are disproportionately impacted by both the plastic pollution crisis and COVID-19, reusable systems are not only possible right now, they are needed more than ever,” says Greenpeace USA plastics campaigner, David Pinsky. “Reusable systems can protect workers, customers and our environment by meeting basic hygiene and distancing requirements, and can help get people back to work.”
According to the report, here are just a few of the reusable systems and companies that can instill confidence during the pandemic:
• Contactless coffee systems have been embraced by hundreds of cafes worldwide to minimize waste. With this system, a customer places their reusable cup on the counter, backs away, and allows the barista to fill it with a separate cup that doesn’t touch the customer’s.
• Loop, which launched in 2019, offers well-known grocery brands to customers in reusable containers. The company collects used containers, sanitizes them according to FDA standards, and uses them for future products. Loop has reported a sales increase during the pandemic.
• The Wally Shop, which recently expanded nationally, and Zero, also offer grocery delivery with reusable containers.
• To-go reusable models such as CupClub enable customers to borrow a reusable cup, use it, then return it at a drop-off point to be cleaned.
• Takeout meal systems such as Dispatch Goods partner with local restaurants to provide meals in reusable containers that customers return for commercial cleaning.
• Algramo, based in Chile, uses vending machines and an electric vehicle delivery service that allows people to pay for only the amount of product they need in reusable containers.
“It is time for restaurants, retailers and all food businesses to end their reliance on useless plastic packaging, bags and containers,” says Pinsky. “Individuals who want to see continued action on the plastic pollution crisis can get involved by encouraging their favorite businesses to continue to prioritize reuse in ways that maintain proper hygiene and safety.”