Sustainability in Action

Scientists Say Reusable Food Containers are Safe During Coronavirus

Jess Baker
 | Head of Content & Editorial Strategy, O-I Glass

Yes, refillable and reusable food and beverage containers, like those made from glass, are safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Consistent with other recommendations around COVID-19, basic hygiene is the key when it comes to containers including reusable grocery bags and coffee cups. That’s the strong message a coalition of scientists is sending in a new statement.

More than 100 scientists from 18 countries released a combined statement this week to address concerns the coronavirus pandemic has raised around reusable food containers. The pandemic has seen states and cities suspend bans on plastic bags. Some have even banned reusable cloth grocery bags. Coffee shops aren’t refilling reusable mugs. Some restaurants are using disposable utensils and plates for dine-in customers.

But in the new statement, scientists are dispelling myths that circular products that are reused create higher risks of COVID transmission. They’re explicitly pointing out that misinformation is encouraging people to needlessly increase the consumption of single-use, disposable food and beverage containers.

“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 scientists say.

Much in the way that health experts champion handwashing as a way to protect yourself from the coronavirus, the scientists recommend turning away from disposables and instead, properly washing reusable cups, bags and dinnerware. In the statement, the group addresses what it considers three key points:

  • Evidence shows the virus primarily spreads from inhaling aerosolized droplets, rather than through contact with surfaces
  • Disposable products present similar issues as reusable ones
  • Reusable products are easily cleaned with dishwashers and washing machines

“It is clear that reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene,” the statement says. “Single-use plastic is not inherently safer than reusables, and causes additional public health concerns once it is discarded.”

Common sense also supports the science. Otherwise, shouldn’t we be eating off paper plates and using disposable cups and silverware at home instead of washing our dishes?

Recycling has already taken a hit during COVID-19. Increasing the use of one-way, disposable items at the expense of reusable ones when the evidence suggests there is no valid safety reason to do so will cause more negative impacts on the environment and the economy. If you need more convincing that reusables are safe when properly washed, read the full statement from the scientists.

Jess Baker
Jess Baker
Head of Content & Editorial Strategy, O-I Glass
Jess Baker loves to tell a good story. You've seen her work on The Weather Channel,, and She's a runner, a mom, and a die-hard Springsteen fan.
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