The global pandemic has had a major impact on our lives, but one perhaps unintended consequence is that many of us have gone back to our plastic-loving ways. This creates a huge challenge for producers, retailers and distributors of sustainable and reusable products.
As cafes converted to takeaway-only, handwritten signs saying “No reusable cups here” appeared in windows and we began relying again on disposable packaging. A challenge felt keenly by KeepCup co-founder Abigail Forsyth.
Single Use Thought to be Safer
“During the COVID-19 crisis single-use has unfortunately incorrectly been equated to hygiene,” says Forsyth.
“In line with these setbacks ‘convenience culture’ has crept back into everyday life, but the fight against the climate and plastic pollution crises is more important than ever.”
This is echoed by fellow reusables cup and bottle producer made by Fressko, Director of Creative and Marketing Hayley Culley.
“It has been super disappointing to see some people go backwards in this plastic free journey, but luckily there has also been a lot of information provided by health professionals and scientists proving that reusable cups are in fact safe,” she says.
“It’s all about education and common sense at the end of the day so we will continue to spread the word and we know that our retailers are doing the same.”
For KeepCup they have promoted the “contactless pour” so customers can keep using their reusable cups without contact from the barista. They also published a statement signed by more than 100 scientists to reiterate that reusable items are safe — IF basic hygiene practices are used.
The “contactless pour” is also something Made by Fressko have been educating their customers on.
“Take your cup or your plate to the local cafe or takeaway food store – let them pour the coffee in the cup or put the food on the plate without touching it,” says Culley.
“It really is quite simple but like anything, it’s what you become used to and this time is a massive learning period for us all.”
Challenge will be Educating Consumers
For the reusables industry and for retailers aiming for zero waste solutions, it’s a new challenge to continue to educate consumers of the harmfulness of plastic, and to convince them that the convenience of single use is not worth the environmental consequences.
In the US, a bill to ban single-use plastics and a separate Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act were both suspended out of fear of virus transmission. This year, the ACT government will introduce legislation to phase out the sale and distribution of some single-use plastics, but in South Australia, similar legislation was put on hold due to the pandemic.
“Reduction and reuse underpin the green recovery. Pre pandemic, the reuse revolution was in full swing with bans on single-use plastic gaining traction around the world. While lockdown has been a stumbling block, it has also shown us how critical the reuse imperative is to the health of people and planet,” says Forsyth.
Future Positive for Reusables
Although customers may be feeling wary, with adequate cleaning and hygiene practices reusable items can be used safely, and as we emerge towards a “new normal” buying and using reusables in our daily lives is likely to return to pre-COVID levels.
As for KeepCup, a global pandemic won’t stop them from continuing to find reusable solutions for the planet.
“We have a number of campaigns and products planned for 2021, you will have to stay in touch to find out,” exclaims Forsyth.
“But you can be sure they will be about reducing single-use, bringing people with us on the journey, amplifying the work of others and reducing our own impact.”
“Our role is not only about driving single-use cup bans, but in lifting the bar on what good corporate citizenship and a post growth economy looks and feels like.”
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