By Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
International environmental group Greenpeace on Monday called on local government units to strengthen measures against single-use plastic in their localities amid a significant increase in the usage of single-use plastic during the coronavirus outbreak.
It also recommended introducing prohibition and heightening the implementation of policies to keep communities safe from harmful waste.
The call came as over 115 health experts from across the globe signed a statement assuring the public of the safety of reusables during the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 global pandemic has triggered a discussion of how to ensure the safety of reusable systems in a public 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,” the statement read.
Endorsed by scientists, academics, doctors, and specialists in public health and food packaging safety around the world, the statement noted that household disinfectants have been proven effective at disinfecting hard surfaces, such as reusables. This follows several temporary pauses on single-use plastic bans across the world and a trend of shops ceasing reusables usage amid COVID-19.
Reacting to the statement, Filipino physician and public health expert on health, climate change, and the environment, Renzo Guinto said “protecting the public’s health must include maintaining the cleanliness of our home, the earth.”
“We don’t need to choose one over the other – we can protect ourselves from COVID-19 while protecting the environment. Evidence shows that reusable bags, containers, and utensils can be used safely to dramatically decrease exposure to the virus while not causing harm to the planet,” he said.
In the Philippines, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed back efforts to cut plastic use.
Based on recent reports, Quezon City, which implemented an ordinance banning plastic bags in January, is “mulling the deferment of the ban on single-use plastic/disposable material.”
However, the rise of plastic waste during the pandemic, including single-use gloves, protectors and packaging, may instead be increasing the risks and impacts on our communities and citizens, especially for frontliners such as sanitation workers and fisherfolk.
“There has been a growing call for a better normal after the pandemic and that should include dramatic reductions in plastic waste. Single-use plastic is not inherently safer than reusables as it will cause additional public health concerns once discarded,” Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma said.
“As the government gradually allows businesses to reopen, reusable systems and single-use plastic bans must be implemented to ensure the protection of the environment, workers, and consumers,” she added.