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Experts insist reusable coffee cups ARE safe to use

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Experts insist reusable coffee cups ARE safe to use amid fears over spike in disposable plastic waste during the coronavirus crisis

  • Statement signed by more than 100 experts including virologists and doctors
  • They write that single-use plastics are not inherently safer than reusables
  • Basic hygiene practices should keep reusable cups clean and safe for others 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Reusable coffee cups are safe to use during the coronavirus pandemic, experts have insisted.

More than 100 virologists, epidemiologists, biologists, chemists and doctors hailing from 18 countries including the UK, US and France signed a statement saying the cups are as safe as single-use plastics providing the user ’employs basic hygiene’. 

This includes washing cups regularly with a normal household disinfectant and hot water, washing hands with soap and water or a disinfectant, and avoiding touching the eyes, mouth and nose.

The call for further use of renewables comes amid mounting concerns over a spike in disposable plastic waste due to the pandemic.

Starbucks and Caffe Nero have suspended the use of reusable coffee cups in stores.

More than 100 experts wrote to say that reusable cups are safe to use. They added that single-use plastic is not inherently safer than the reusable alternatives

More than 100 experts wrote to say that reusable cups are safe to use. They added that single-use plastic is not inherently safer than the reusable alternatives

Writing in their statement to address the safety of reusable items, the experts said: ‘Based on the best available science and guidance from public health professionals, it is clear that reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene.

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

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

However, they advised people to assume that any object or surface in a public place – reusable or disposal – could be ‘contaminated’ with the virus.

But these could be cleaned and made safe for use with normal hygiene methods. 

Starbucks and Caffe Nero are both refusing reusable cups from customers

Starbucks and Caffe Nero are both refusing reusable cups from customers

Which coffee shops are accepting reusable cups from customers?

Starbucks: No.

The chain stopped accepting reusable cups on March 6 in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

It also waived its 5p charge on paper cups, and said customers who bring in reusable cups will get a 25p discount.

The chain has reopened 150 stores in the UK, or 15 per cent of its total. 

Caffe Nero: No.

The chain says online: ‘For now, we will only be serving in take-away cups as it’s best not to handle re-usable cups’.

They have reopened some stores for takeaway and delivery only.

Costa Coffee: Unclear.

The cafe has announced a raft of new measures to ensure customers are kept safe as it reopens, but does not mention reusable coffee cups.

More than 1,100 Costa cafes are expected to open by the end of June.

Pret a Manger: Unclear

The chain does not say whether it will accept them online.

However, MailOnline understands that it is applying discounts to reusable cup owners but serving them disposable cups.

More than 300 of its stores have reopened for takeaway and delivery.

They added that retailers handling reusable containers should use additional hygiene practices for Covid-19, have contact-free systems for customer’s personal bags and cups, and protect employees.

‘The bottom line is that reusable items are safe to use when cleaned with soap and water, and there is no substitute for thorough hygiene,’ they said.

‘Systems in which there is no contact between the customer’s reusable cup, container or bag and retail surface areas can protect workers and provide a precautionary approach to addressing Covid-19 transmission.’ 

The Government delayed moves to bring in a ban on plastic straws and stirrers, and the plastics industry has used the virus to try to stop or delay bans on single-use plastics in Europe. 

Dr Jennifer Cole, Northern European regional hub co-ordinator of the Planetary Health Alliance, Royal Holloway University of London, who signed the statement, said: ‘I feel it is vitally important that we do not let the impact Covid-19 has had on human health be used as an excuse to further damage the health of our planet.

‘Reusable cups and utensils can be washed; loose bread rolls and fruit in shops can be picked up by using the paper bag they will then be placed in, without the need for immediately discarded plastic gloves.

‘As our old lives resume, we must make time and space to protect and nurture healthier environments to ensure a healthier future for all.’ 

Professor Tamara Galloway, an ecotoxicologist at the University of Exeter, and Professor Charlotte Williams, a chemist at Oxford University, were the two other British scientists to sign the statement.

In the US, scientists from Yale University, the National Institute of Health Sciences and John Hopkins University signed the statement. 

 

Health Experts address the safety of reusables and Covid-19: FULL STATEMENT

Reuse and refill systems are an essential part of addressing the plastic pollution crisis and moving away from a fossil fuel-based economy. They can create jobs and help build local economies. 

The COVID-19 global pandemic has triggered a discussion of how to ensure the safety of reusable systems in a public health crisis. Based on the best available science and guidance from public health professionals, it is clear that reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene. Below are the key facts to keep in mind.

Available Evidence Indicates that the Virus Spreads Primarily from Inhaling Aerosolized Droplets, Rather than through Contact with Surfaces

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC), ‘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.’ 

While ‘it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or 1 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.

Disposable Products Present Similar Issues As Reusable Ones

Studies show that the COVID-19 virus can remain infectious on surfaces for varying times depending on the material. 

One study showed infectious virus lasted up to 24 hours on paper and cardboard and between 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel. In another study, infectious virus was not found on print or tissue paper after just three hours, whereas it was active up to 1 day on cloth, up to 3 days on glass, and 6 days on plastic and stainless steel. 

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

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

Reusable Products are Easily Cleaned

Most common approved household disinfectants should be effective for disinfecting hard 6 surfaces, including reusable items, with such surfaces being cleaned thoroughly using a detergent or soap and hot water prior to disinfection if they are visibly dirty. 

Dishwashers and washing machines should be effective if operated according to manufacturers’ instructions and, in the case of laundry, using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and drying items completely. 

Similarly, washing hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub, and then avoiding touching your eyes, mouth, or nose are effective ways to protect yourself.

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