You can only feel happy when you see all the smiling faces of pupils and staff at school, seperated from each other for so long during the enforced school closure. We came back with a determination to make it work and stay safe. But in rightly protecting our health, have we considered the impact upon the health of the environment from all the additional single-use plastic now in daily usage?

Single-use plastic straws

The Nature Citizens worked hard to rid our school of single-use plastic straws. We initiated reusable beakers that are washed by volunteers, saving almost 14,000 straws from ending up in landfill or the sea. However, in the need to curb contamination from surfaces and each other, those plastic straws have found themselves back in our snack routines.

The evidence

More than 100 experts including virologists, epidemiologists, biologists, chemists and doctors from the UK and other countries have signed a statement saying reusable containers are safe if thoroughly washed. Read the information here:

https://storage.googleapis.com/planet4-international-stateless/2020/06/26618dd6-health-expert-statement-reusables-safety.pdf

Main points

The 119 signatories to the statement, who are joined by Greenpeace, say evidence indicates that the Covid-19 virus spreads primarily from inhaling aerosol droplets, rather than contact with surfaces.

To prevent transmission through objects and surfaces, people can assume that any object or surface in a public space – reusable or disposable – could be contaminated with the virus, the statement says.

“Single-use plastic is not inherently safer than reusables, and causes additional public health concerns once it is discarded,” it warns.

People should thoroughly wash reusable containers with hot water and detergent or soap, the experts urge, and also remember to wash their hands with soap and hot water or an alcohol-based hand rub, and avoid touching their eyes, mouth or nose.

So, what can we do?

At this time, staff have decided to collect up the single-use plastic straws and dispose of correctly in a recyclying bin and not the class bin which ends up in landfill. Nature Citizens have been emailed for their opinions and ideas.

This is not perfect but it is a start in tackling this problem.