When the Coronavirus first hit our news screens, many people became reluctant to use their reusable containers, coffee cups and shopping bags, for fears of spreading the virus.
In 2018, the Bangkok Post reported that, on average, Thai’s used 8 plastic bags each per day, but in January 2020, Thailand saw a big pull away from single-use plastics and pushed towards reusables. 75 retailers pledged to stop providing single-use plastic bags and the majority of the population agreed with the ban. This came only a few months before Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.
Fast forward to a Covid-19 world and a poll by the Institute of Public Policy and Development found that 62% of people in Thailand now view single-use plastics as essential.
With little evidence to prove that reusables posed any more of a threat than plastic, many cafes and shops like 7/11 and Starbucks still decided to ban the use of reusables cups and containers in their stores, just to be safe.
“Since the early days of this pandemic, the plastic industry has been working to promote unnecessary throwaway plastics and scare people away from reusable bags and other items,” – Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar.
But last week, more than 100 scientists from around the world signed a document stating that the use of reusable cups, bags, containers and other reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene. Virologists, epidemiologists, emergency room doctors, and specialists in public health and food packaging safety were among the 115 experts who signed the document.
“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.” Said Chemistry Professor at Oxford University Charlotte Williams.
So, does this mean that all cafes, shops and restaurants will once again allow reusables? We hope so.
Global coronavirus cases have now hit over 10 million, so it is clear that this virus isn’t going away any time soon. We must return our thinking towards caring for our environment, whilst we start adjusting to this new normal.
“It is vitally important that we do not let the impact Covid-19 has had on human health be used as an excuse to further damage the health of our planet”.
“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, Royal Hollaway University