As COVID-19 continues to have an unprecedented impact on our global community, fears about effective ways to return to normality are understandably heightened. Like any complex issue, we need to look at real solutions and practices that will help to protect us. Single use items are not one of these solutions.
To combat the spread of the virus, Starbucks, Costa and several other coffee chains have temporarily banned reusable coffee cups in stores. Current media messaging is that disposable plastic packaging, including disposable coffee cups, are more sanitary then their reusable counterparts as they reduce contact between customer and barista. This seems logical at first glance, but on reflection it becomes obvious that reverting to using disposable cups is not an effective way to combat the continued spread of the virus.
As a customer, you have no way of knowing where a disposable cup has been before your pick it up. Most are made from porous materials that can harbour potentially harmful bacteria, they are stored for long periods of time in public areas, and most importantly, they change hands far more frequently than reusables in the supply chain. Single use items come with disposable convenience, but as we have seen, perceived convenience easily disguises a host of negative issues.
Plastic and single use products are one of the greatest underlying threats to our future. In recent years, significant progress has been made to change this for the better. We cannot allow times like these to derail our progress. Reversion to poor practices will only serve to fuel future global crises. We need to permanently adapt the way we live - for the environment, our health and the lives of future generations.
Social distancing is effectively flattening the COVID-19 curve, so there has never been a better time to hone your at-home barista skills. If you do venture to the coffee shop, attention now should be on maintaining the correct hygiene practices. Always wash your hands and retain your lid (there is no reason for your barista or anyone else to touch this). Using your own drinking vessel empowers you to control potentially unhygienic exposure. We encourage you to take time to speak with your local barista about the various actions that can be taken to successfully move through this time of risk and ensure that reuse continues.
One thing that we can be certain of, is that no matter how long the epidemic lasts, the problems of environmental degradation, climate change and plastic pollution will still be with us when it ends.