2020/06/21 Singapore, Singapore
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, many countries had taken strict measures to curb the spread of the virus. In Singapore, during the stay-at-home order known as the circuit breaker, dine-in was not possible at food establishments. Eateries were only allowed to offer take-away, drive-thru, and delivery of food. In an article published by Channel News Asia on 20 June 2020, Dr Serena Caucci, UNU-FLORES Senior Research Associate discussed the use of reusables vis-à-vis hygiene concerns amid the ongoing health crisis.
She comments: “The use of reusable items is unlikely to spread the coronavirus, if both vendors and customers take proper hygiene measures like washing the containers thoroughly, for example, in the dishwasher or disinfecting, in between the use of these items.”
Failing to safeguard proper hygiene by either party poses a risk.
“As with many other items handled by infected individuals, the droplets on the surfaces of the reusable boxes or cups could enter the eateries’ process and lead to the transfer of the droplets in the food delivery chain, posing a risk to the next customers or the workers themselves.”
Despite the Singapore government’s efforts to encourage people to adopt more sustainable practices and use their own takeaway boxes, a survey cited in the article revealed that an additional 1,334 tonnes of plastic waste was generated during the circuit breaker period.
With a background in environmental microbiology, Dr Serena Caucci now works on topics in waste management. She addressed the risk of using reusable containers amid the current pandemic by saying, “The odds of contracting the virus in this way are low but it is sensible to take precautions. We must not forget that beyond the use of reusables, other actions like handling cash or handling the packaging of single-use boxes could anyway have the same role in helping spread the virus.”