1. Hand Sanitiser vs Soap
Hand sanitiser has been in high demand globally during 2020, but the 70% alcohol gel which kills bacteria and viruses (including COVID-19) often comes in a plastic bottle.
To reduce plastic consumption, consider switching to a bar of soap and warm water for washing your hands.
Bars of soap can often be found in entirely biodegradable packaging, making the impact on the environment considerably less than hand sanitiser.
Alternatively, opting for liquid soap which can be refilled would allow you to reduce your plastic consumption without major changes to your lifestyle.
Ensuring you follow hand washing advice, the government states washing your hands is as effective as hand sanitiser for reducing the risk of getting ill.
2. Disposable Masks vs Washable Masks
Scientists at UCL have estimated that if every person in the UK used one single-use mask each day for a year, we would create 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste and create ten times more climate change impact than using reusable masks.
In a hospital environment, single-use protective wear such as masks and gloves are contaminated items, and there are systems in place for their safe disposal, which involve segregation and incineration.
Surgical grade N95 respirators offer the highest level of protection against COVID-19 infection, followed by surgical grade masks.
However, evidence suggests that reusable masks perform most of the tasks of single-use masks without the associated waste stream.
Material, reusable masks present a great eco-friendly alternative as long as they are washed after each use.
3. Plastic Bags vs Material
In October 2015, the government introduced new laws to curb the use of plastic bags in the UK.
Since then, the number of plastic bags in the UK has dropped.
The coronavirus, however, has seen more people turn to disposable bags, with several states in the USA banning reusable bags entirely.
Whilst the evidence is still unclear about how long COVID-19 can live on clothing, Vincent Munster, from the National Institutes of Health told the BBC that the NIH speculates ‘it desiccates rapidly’ on porous materials.
General advice is instead of ditching reusable bags, to ensure they are washed regularly and anyone who comes into contact with them also washes their hands.
4. Coffee Cups vs Reusables
Coffee cups have been a large focus for plastic-free campaigners in recent years.
However, as lockdown restrictions have eased and coffee shops have begun to reopen, many are returning to throw-away coffee cups to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.
Several large coffee chains, which previously accepted reusable coffee cups, have also halted the use of them amid safety concerns.
Despite widespread concerns, more than 100 scientists, doctors, and academics have endorsed the sensible use of reusable containers as safe and unlikely to contribute to the further spread of COVID-19.
Reusable cups should be washed thoroughly with hot water and soap.
5. Takeaway Pint Glasses vs #PlasticFreePints
As pubs reopened at the weekend, many were turning to plastic cups in order to aid takeaway orders and to reduce the need for staff to touch used glasses.
Similarly to the reusable coffee cups, if washed thoroughly, a reusable glass or tumbler could be a simple sustainable swap to help curb the growing coronavirus waste problem.
Ours to Save, a platform for global climate news, and EcoDisco, a sustainable events company, have created the #PlasticFreePints initiative to encourage pub-goers to use reusable alternatives in place of the typical single-use plastic on offer.