Hygienic does not mean disposable!
As we wrestle with life post lockdown, it remains to be seen what the overall effect on the environment has been. While global restrictions on flights and travel have resulted in nature blooming, there are new, serious threats bubbling on the horizon.
The global coronavirus pandemic has created a new and completely unprecedented problem – the littering of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Our parks, waterways, hedgerows and gutters are now having to contend with discarded and lost disposable latex gloves and face masks, as well as the usual suspects of straws, drinks bottles and food packaging.
Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is a serious business and one we are all working together to achieve but with over 67 million of us in the UK alone, the real impact of disposable face masks & gloves could have catastrophic consequences.
Between the end of February and mid-April this year, more than one billion items of PPE were given were given out in the UK alone! 😱🤯
However, it’s not just PPE we need to be mindful of. Since hygiene has become an even more important aspect of day-to-day life, we have seen everything from refusal of reusable cups in coffee shops, to disposable food packaging and cutlery at every turn. In some respects, it’s almost as if we have seen a regression in reusables, undoing all the hard won progress of the past few years.
Of course all efforts have been directed into reducing the spread of coronavirus and protecting our loved ones, but it’s possible to keep fighting the good fight against disposables at the same time.
Gradually, some coffee shops are starting to accept reusable coffee cups again, so use them. Encourage others to do so as not only do we start to regain ground on disposable coffee cup waste, but in doing so we also help conserve the supplies in independent cafes. City to Sea have launched a #ContactlessCoffee campaign to keep reusable coffee cups on the menu.
Of course, reusable face masks help the environment significantly. They can be washed on high as often as is necessary, and some even take replaceable filters. There is no need to buy the disposable ones. Stories and pictures are already emerging of seabirds and fish stuck in gloves or with masks tangled around their feet.
Latex gloves have become another scourge of the supermarket car park, finding their way to nature, beaches and waterways. Standard rubber gloves could be used instead, soaked and deep cleaned in the kitchen sink on your return. Similarly, you could choose to use antibacterial gel or sanitiser post-shop too if you cannot immediately wash your hands.
Hygiene is and should always be of paramount importance. The way society has worked together is incredible, showcasing just what is possible when we work towards a common goal. While quarantine may have given many a renewed enthusiasm for the outdoors, nature and wide open spaces, let’s maintain our focus and resistance to single-use and disposable items wherever they are found, in order to protect that fragile ecosystem. PPE needs to be taken seriously right now, but so does our environment. It’s important to remember that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
Stay safe. Protect the environment. Save ALL life.