Reusables are Covid-Safe
Since March 2020, COVID-19 has created a multitude of challenges and uncertainties for schools — especially school nutrition programs — across the country. When shelter-in-place orders went into effect, school districts scrambled to create plans for teaching remotely and provide take-out meals safely under constantly changing conditions.
Prior to the pandemic, many jurisdictions and purchasers had begun taking steps to eliminate or phase out single-use products - particularly plastics. This was driven by mounting concerns over plastic pollution including the harmful impacts that items like plastic straws and polystyrene foam containers can have on wildlife and our environment. At the same time, concern about harmful chemicals such as PFAS (Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl substances) in plant or fiber-based FSW was also gaining more attention - driven, in part by emerging science around PFAS, and by campaigns led by CEH and allies to educate purchasers and consumers about the health and waste impacts these products cause.
In June 2020, health experts from around the world issued a statement to clarify that single-use products are not inherently safer than reusables, and to provide assurance that reusable systems can be utilized safely during the pandemic by employing appropriate hygiene and sanitization practices.1 Moreover, in April 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an update indicating that the danger of contracting COVID-19 from surface transmission is low, and reiterating that the primary route of infection is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying the virus.2
As schools begin to reopen, we can use this opportunity to reimagine our cafeterias as healthier spaces that foster environmental mindfulness and move our students away from a ‘throw away’ culture.
Road to Reusables
Purchasers look to phase out single-use products
Shelter-in-place orders went into effect due to COVID-19
Health experts clarify that single-use products are not inherently safer than reusables
CDC issues an update indicating that the danger of contracting COVID-19 from surface transmission is low
Call to reimagine our cafeterias and the role of reusables
Appendices and Citations
Continue learning by following the links within this toolkit, which lead to a variety of resources including those of external affiliates. For more information or to contribute to the toolkit, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit CEH.org/foodware.
Ditching Disposables A Toolkit for Healthier Foodware in K-12 Schools