In a press release published on June 22, 2020, the non-governmental organizations Greenpeace and UPSTREAM announced the publication of a statement signed by over 115 health experts addressing the safety of reusable items during the COVID-19 pandemic. It emphasizes that “based on the best available science and guidance from public health professionals, it is clear that reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene.” It presents the available evidence and explains that the virus itself spreads primarily via aerosols rather than contact with surfaces, and that single-use products present similar issues as reusables regarding the risk of transmission via surface contact.
Instead of relying on single-use items that increase waste, the statement urges stakeholders to remember that reusable products are easily cleaned and sanitized. It recommends to follow set food safety and health codes with standards in place for washing and to implement contact-free systems to refill reusable containers. The list of international signatories includes a wide range of medical doctors, university professors, research scientists, medical association leaders, and former government administrators.
Industry groups have been calling to delay pending regulations related to single-use food packaging based on safety claims, and non-governmental organizations have been arguing instead for investments to increase resilience and not disrupt progress towards expanding systematic reuse and transitioning away from a reliance on single-use packaging (FPF reported). In response, there have been mixed reactions from governments and within society, leading to a pause of many potential packaging regulations and initiatives around the globe (FPF reported). The Food Packaging Forum has published an overview presentation summarizing discussions about the reuse during the pandemic.
Greenpeace (June 22, 2020). “Over 115 health experts defend safety of reusables during COVID-19 pandemic.”
Vanessa Tiongson (June 22, 2020). “Over 115 health experts sign statement addressing safety of reusables during COVID-19.” UPSTREAM
Jordan Davidson (June 22, 2020). “Reusable Cups, Bags and Containers Can Be Safe During COVID-19, Scientists Say.” EcoWatch
Sandra Laville (June 22, 2020). “Reusable containers safe during Covid-19 pandemic, say experts.” The Guardian
Greenpeace (June 22, 2020). “Health Expert Statement Addressing Safety of Reusables and COVID-19.” (pdf)