COVID-19 Update: Single-use plastics are not the answer

As social distancing becomes the new norm and we take precautions to protect our health and safety, many in the plastics industry have used the crisis as an opportunity to plug the necessity of wasteful, polluting, and climate warming single-use plastics as more effective than reusables at slowing the spread of the virus.

In reality, plastic producers are taking advantage of the current crisis to shift the focus away from the harmful effects of the plastic pollution problem.

Fortunately, our allies at Upstream have put together a FAQ debunking the arguments for embracing single-use plastics during the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are a few key points from their article.

Before we dive into the article, we want to emphasize that the most important thing at the moment is to take steps to protect everyone’s health and to work together in social solidarity to support and uplift each other during this crisis.

Why Single-use Isn’t the Answer

  1. Washing your reusable cups and containers with soap, especially in a dishwasher, will kill the virus.
  2. Plastic single-use items are not necessarily safer. In fact, they can potentially harbor the virus from different stops along the supply chain, from transport to stocking and beyond.
  3. The long-term lesson is that we need a safe, sanitary system in place for reusable to-go containers and cups in our food industry, instead of doubling down on our dependency on plastic. In times of crisis like the present, a food-delivery system based on reusables would allow restaurants to quickly shift to serving customers via take-out. As it is, we’re forced to scramble to create ad-hoc solutions.

Perhaps the biggest take-away from the COVID-19 crisis is that the systems we have in place–from single-use plastics and wasting food, to inadequate health care access and insufficient social support for workers and unemployed–are completely inadequate.

We can’t rely on them any longer, and it’s irresponsible to praise any of those systems at present, especially when it comes to plastic pollution.

Now is the time to use people power to build a better world, one free from plastic pollution and waste. As we are forced to isolate ourselves and slow down, we have the opportunity to begin looking forward and imagine something different–a better future, and certainly not one built on cheap, wasteful plastics.

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