Disposables, Paper Products, and COVID-19
Take-out. Delivery Services. Face masks. Daily reality amid the coronavirus is downright reliant upon single use items. Bans against single use plastics which have been gaining traction over the last decade are being lifted in many places in the US and Europe in light of the increased demand for disposable paper and plastic products. Over fear of viral transmission, companies like Starbucks and McDonalds have altogether banned the use of reusable cups. Even reusable bags have been prohibited amid the pandemic.
Why Disposable Products?
It turns out that the concern of reusable items increasing the potential for the virus to spread may be valid. In fact, it was found that surgical masks worn by those infected with COVID-19 can harbor the virus for seven days, making proper disposal a necessity. Similarly, the virus can survive on surfaces of common materials such as plastic and stainless steel for up to 3 days.
Because of the ability for coronavirus to remain viable for extended periods, people have understandably turned to disposable tableware products. Many have resorted to using items like paper plates, foam containers, and plastic cutlery to reduce their risk of exposure to pathogens.
Furthermore, both the Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have asserted that the risk of catching the virus from disposable packaging and paper products is very low. This is because these items are poor carriers of the virus, meaning that it cannot survive in significant numbers or for an extended period on their surfaces.
Even as restaurants begin to reopen, disposables will continue to be the norm for the foreseeable future. For example, guidelines from the CDC suggest that restaurants use disposable menus as well as continue the use of single serve condiments and tableware as they plan for new, stricter health standards.
What is the cost to the environment?
We know that over 8 million metric tons of plastic have polluted the world’s oceans every year. One of the largest contributors to this unimaginably large amount of marine waste are single-use plastics. Single-use plastics is a term given to plastics that are used once and then thrown away or recycled (although studies show that 90.5% of plastic waste has never been recycled). This includes everyday items like plastic straws, cups, bottles, bags, packages, cutlery, and foam containers.
In recent years there has been much needed retaliation against single-use plastics. Whether it be California’s ban on plastic straws, or the European Union’s plan to ban many single use plastics by 2021, consumers and lawmakers are becoming aware of the problem and taking action.
However, COVID-19 has complicated the situation and caused governments to reconsider current bans. Necessary but troubling increases in the use of single use items could make 2020 one of the worst years in modern history for plastic pollution. But what about paper products? After all, one of the most immediate effects of the virus was a dramatic increase in demand for toilet paper and paper towels.
As it turns out, paper products also have a detrimental impact on the environment. Demand for paper products is directly linked to 14% of all deforestation. Deforestation in turn reduces the amount of carbon absorbed by forests, destroys the environment of endangered species, and destroys slow growing forests which cannot be easily renewed.
What can you do?
Now more than ever, it is difficult to make eco-friendly choices, especially in the wake of more pressing health concerns. But every little step towards sustainability helps. One way we can all do our part is by making conscientious choices without sacrificing safety. Luckily there are eco-friendly alternatives to traditional disposable products!
Bagasse products are an excellent alternative to paper products. Unlike paper products, which are derived from trees, bagasse products are made of a sugarcane byproduct. Not only does sugarcane grow much faster than trees, it can absorb 50 tons of C02 per hectare, making it the best crop in the world at removing carbon from the atmosphere. Bagasse also offers similar or better performance to paper plates and are microwave safe, making them perfect for all types of food. And bagasse doesn’t have to go to the landfill either, since it is 100% compostable at home. You can find all sorts of bagasse products here.
Bagasse plates are an eco-friendly alternative to paper products
PLA and CPLA
You might be surprised to find out that there are eco-friendly solutions for plastic items as well! Plastic cups can be made from PLA, which is a compostable bioplastic made from plant starches such as corn starch. You can learn more about the process here. Rather than taking hundreds of years to break down, PLA can be commercially composted in 90 days. In fact some studies have shown PLA bioplastic composting in as few as 11 days.
In addition to cups, a strengthened form of bioplastic called CPLA is used for making cutlery which offers similar environmentally friendly characteristics while withstanding higher heats of up to 194° F. You can make an eco—friendly choice by purchasing plastic cutlery online.
Though times are tough for nature and humans alike, we hope that conscientious consumption and sustainable products will have the way for a brighter, greener future.
If you would like to learn more, visit our website at https://www.biogreenchoice.com/ to discover a range of sustainable solutions.
Stay safe out there!