WASHINGTON, DC, June 22, 2020 (Press Release) -Over 115 health experts from eighteen countries signed onto a statement today assuring retailers and consumers that reusables are safe during COVID-19, pushing back on claims by the plastic industry. Among the health experts endorsing the statement is Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Senior Lecturer Dr. Sharifah Norkhadijah Syed Ismail from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.
The health experts — joined by Greenpeace USA and UPSTREAM, both members of the Break Free From Plastic movement — emphasise that disposable products are not inherently safer than reusables and that reusable systems can be utilised safely during the pandemic by employing basic hygiene.
“Public health must include maintaining the cleanliness of our home, the Earth,” said Dr. Mark Miller, former director of research at the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center. “The promotion of unnecessary single-use plastics to decrease exposure to the coronavirus negatively impacts the environment, water systems, and potential food supply compared to the safe use of reusable bags, containers, and utensils.”
The statement endorsed by scientists, academics, doctors, and specialists in public health and food packaging safety around the world, notes that household disinfectants have been proven effective at disinfecting hard surfaces, such as reusables. The statement follows several temporary pauses on plastic bans across the world and increased bans on reusables by shops amid COVID-19.
“It’s been shocking to witness the plastic industry take advantage of the pandemic to promote throwaway plastics and scare people away from reusable bags and other items,” said Greenpeace USA Global Project Leader Graham Forbes. “It is crucial for businesses, and governments to know that as they reopen, reusable systems can be deployed safely to protect both our environment and workers and customers. To keep people safe and protect our planet, we should listen to the best available science instead of underhanded marketing from the plastic industry.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the plastic industry has worked to boost profits and demonise reusables. Pauses on plastic bans followed a significant PR push from the plastics industry, using older industry-funded research to claim that reusables are more dangerous than disposables during COVID-19.
“Over the past few months, there’s been a lot of conflicting information about how the virus is spread, but we now know that surfaces are not the main way we’re exposed,” said Matt Prindiville, CEO of UPSTREAM – a non-profit sparking innovative solutions to plastic pollution. “Plastic harms our health along the entire supply chain. Fortunately, COVID is easily destroyed by proper washing, so restaurants, grocery stores and other businesses can still serve us using reusable items in ways that protect health without harming the environment.”