Written by Ali Fisher
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a mantra that has been around in the UK since the 1970s and has arguably had some of its greatest momentum over the last couple of years, especially following Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet 2 in the autumn of 2017. Yet the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works to say the least, especially when it comes to the second ‘R’ of Reuse.
As we continue to battle through a devastating global pandemic, why should we continue to worry about environmental waste? It is estimated in the UK that we use a staggering 5 million tonnes of plastic every year, nearly half of which comes from packaging.
Estimates suggest that globally around 12 million tonnes of plastics enter our oceans every year.
WWF estimated that in 2018 just under a third (29%) of single use plastics were recycled, with almost half (48%) going to Landfill. Then there’s the other third. Estimates suggest that globally around 12 million tonnes of plastics enter our oceans every year.
The very nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, with an urgent need to stop the spread of the virus, has meant the increased use of single use items. As we face the horrifying reality that this ‘new normal’ could be around for some time, it seems a good moment to check in on how we cope with a health crisis and environmental crisis simultaneously. Ultimately, we must all do what feels comfortable for each of us in our own situations.
One of the mantras of 2020, has been the call to listen to the science – something climate scientists have been saying for some decades.
In June, 119 scientists (including epidemiologists, virologists, biologists, chemists and doctors) from 18 countries published a signed statement aiming to reassure the public that reusable containers are safe to use during the pandemic. They advise that reusable containers do NOT increase the chance of virus transmission and individuals should wash reusable containers thoroughly with hot water and detergent.
So can we restart some of our pre-lockdown reuse habits? Costa Coffee have taken a lead on breathing life back into reusable coffee cups and trying to help us kick our UK habit of using 7 million disposable coffee cups a day!! On the 5th June they announced they had adapted their serving system so that there is no contact with the lid/drinking area on either reusable cups or bottles. Starbucks followed suit and restarted reusable mugs on 7th August, with a new contactless process in place, passing reusable cups through the system inside a ceramic sit-in mug. The City To Sea team launched a campaign #contactlesscoffee with a neat 4 step guide for coffee drinkers and coffee shops alike to show how a reusable cup can be kept contact-free. Find out more at www.citytosea.org.uk/contactless-coffee/
One of the most prevalent single use items at the moment is face masks – a current necessity as they are mandated for use in all shops and hopefully will help us control the virus better. It’s not a Reuse moment that many of us will have considered before March 2020 but, given they may be with us for the foreseeable future, it’s one we should think about doing as sustainably as we can. There’s now a plethora of fun, funky or glamorous reusable material masks available on-line or locally. We bought ours from a local Guildford lady who wanted to make a difference in these difficult times and just charged to cover the material (and they’re great by the way!).
One of the most prevalent single use items at the moment is face masks – a current necessity as they are mandated for use in all shops and hopefully will help us control the virus better.
There’s some good advice available from the World Health Organisation (www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks) on how to safely wear and take care of a reusable mask, including washing hands before putting on and taking off, holding the mask by the straps and storing it in a clean reusable bag when out and about but not in use.
A fabric mask can protect others around you. To protect yourself and prevent the spread of COVID-19, remember to keep at least 1 metre distance from others.
If you haven’t discovered it already, Noel’s Farm Shop at Sutton Green Garden Centre, just off the Guildford Road on the way to Woking, is a great way to get into Reuse. The shop offers shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, muesli, porridge and more, available to buy in reusable containers. It’s also a great way to support one of our local businesses.
It doesn’t look as if Reuse has mainstreamed yet in any of our big supermarkets but some are running trials, like the Waitrose Unpacked trial in 4 stores which has been running since last year.
It doesn’t look as if Reuse has mainstreamed yet in any of our big supermarkets but some are running trials.
There is a new kid on the block offering us a different way to Reuse. Loop launched in the UK this July, having launched in New York & Paris in 2019, with an at-home delivery service. Well-known brands from Persil to Heinz Ketchup, Nivea & Coca-Cola will be available to use at home and then return the packaging for cleaning and reuse. It’s new, it’s different & I really hope it will be a raging success, helping to keep more packaging in the loop and out of the environment. Good news is we’ve tried it and it is available in this area.
Please do share with us your thoughts on how we can Reuse more in a safe way so that we can look after both people and planet during these difficult times. Leave your comments below.
Ali Fisher lives in Burpham. She supports businesses and brands to help build a more sustainable future. PlansWithPurpose.co.uk