Group says reusables are safe to use amid COVID-19 pandemic

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 22 2020 10:07 PM

MANILA — An environmental group said Filipinos should heed the advice of global health experts who say that reusable items can be safely used while protecting one’s self against the coronavirus. 

The increase in single-use plastic waste has become a bigger problem as people all over the world seek to protect themselves from the spread of the virus. This involves the use of disposal face masks, gloves and containers. Some establishments have stopped allowing consumers to bring their own cups while some local government units are reportedly considering deferring their implementation of their ban on plastic. 

Greenpeace Southeast Asia on Monday called on local government units to start and enforce the banning and regulation of single-use plastic.

The group’s call coincided with a statement released by health experts from across the world. 

“The COVID19 global pandemic has triggered a discussion of how to ensure the safety of reusable systems in a public crisis. 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,” read the statement that was signed by 115 health experts, including Dr. Geminn Louis Apostol from the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health.

The experts pointed out that household disinfectants are effective in disinfecting hard surfaces and reusables. Among the best practices shared by the experts are businesses’ compliance to health codes, additional hygienic practices such as cleaning reusables with soap and water, protection of workers and contact-free systems for customers’ personal bags and cups. 

“There has been a growing call for a better normal after the pandemic and that should include dramatic reductions in plastic waste. Single-use plastic is not inherently safer than reusables as it will cause additional public health concerns once discarded,” Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma said.

Greenpeace argued that the disposal of single-use personal protective equipment might actually increase “the risks and impacts on our communities and citizens, especially for frontliners such as sanitation workers and fisherfolk.”

The group also quoted Dr. Renzo Guinto, a Filipino physician and public health expert on health, climate change, and the environment, who said, "Evidence shows that reusable bags, containers, and utensils can be used safely to dramatically decrease exposure to the virus while not causing harm to the planet."

Besides ending up in landfills, plastic waste can make its way to bodies of water. Plastic waste has caused flooding, deaths of marine animals and the dispersal of microplastics, which is harmful to human health.