Single use PPE. Pollution versus safety, what do the experts say?

Single-use plastic companies have been advocating their products for hospitality PPE on the global market as a safer option during the COVID-19 pandemic and as part of re-opening protection strategy. If we are concerned about pollution versus safety, what do the experts say?

It’s easy to get very confused during these unusual times; evaluating everything we touch and feeling embarrassed when we need to cough or sneeze in public. At the same time, we’re being bombarded with so much information from so many channels, that building a well-informed opinion is harder than ever. It’s also to be expected that in times of uncertainty and global unrest industries will fight harder to survive. 

So what choices do we have when weighing up single-use plastic products and the alleged health benefits versus reusable and washable masks or other PPE such as aprons and gloves.

So, are the Plastic Industry Associations right?

Here’s the official stand of the Centres for Disease Control and Preventions on virus transmission:

“The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person…between people who are in close contact with one another, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, aerosolized droplets are the only documented method of COVID-19 transmission to date.”

With this in mind, we ask, are single-use plastic products safer when it comes to virus transmission?

Since we are still learning about this particular strain of coronavirus new research continues to pop up frequently. Most recently it has been confirmed that the virus remains active on plastics for up to 72 hours while on copper and cardboard for only around four hours. Over 100 health experts from around the world have released a statement addressing the global discussion that is taking place on reusable vs. single-use plastics. They concluded that both single-use plastics and reusable washable fabric could be contaminated by the virus and single-use plastic is not inherently safer than reusable washable fabric but does cause additional public health concerns once discarded. They advised that reusable washable fabric when properly cleaned and disinfected won’t increase your risk of infection. It was also highlighted that reusable washable fabric is essential in addressing the plastic pollution crisis and create jobs while helping local communities. 

In addition, there are suitable single-use, disposable and biodegradable alternatives to plastic gloves and aprons that are that are protective for use for COVID-19 and safer for the environment.

In conclusion, single-use items aren’t conclusively safer than reusable washable fabric options.  Individually we have better control over reusable washable fabrics, which we own, and clean ourselves. Stay conscious, take care of yourselves and others and if using single use