Opinion: Let’s get our reusable containers out of lockdown
MONTREAL -- There’s no doubt about it, disposable products have made a major comeback to the detriment of the zero waste movement, which until the start of the pandemic had strong wind in its sails.
In March 2020, every precaution was justified, but we’ve learned a lot since then and it's time to reevaluate the options and get our good habits back on track.
Single-use packaging spiked in the pandemic’s early days for health and safety reasons.
The argument was that a reusable container is less safe because it’s a surface on which the virus could be transmitted.
While COVID-19 transmission through surfaces is not disproven, after almost two years we know that the virus is mainly transmitted through aerosols when an infected individual is in close proximity to another person.
Beyond that, the argument doesn’t hold up because a single-use package also happens to be… a surface! The same logic should therefore apply.
It’s time to stop using the pandemic to justify the mountains of waste being generated by single-use items.
A GUIDE FOR THE SAFE USE OF REUSABLE CONTAINERS
A new edition of the Guide to best practices in food, health, and safety for the handling of containers and other reusable items, first published in French in 2020, has been updated and translated to English for the first time.
Approved by the Direction régionale de santé publique du CIUSSS du Centre-Sud-de-l’Île-de-Montréal, the guide contains valuable information for businesses who want to bring back reusable container options, as well as for consumers, showcasing the many benefits.
REUSABLE CONTAINERS ARE SAFE
It’s all a question of process.
With proper handling, reusable containers are a very safe option because there is minimal handling between each wash.
That’s not the case for disposable containers, for which there are numerous steps and often thousands of kilometres before they end up in consumers’ hands.
No one seems to be bothered by eating off dishes that have been washed in restaurants, so why should we be concerned with washable reusable containers?
Furthermore, health rules for reusable containers are strictly enforced by the Quebec Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS TO REUSABLES
It goes without saying that reusable containers greatly reduce our environmental footprint, and not just from a waste standpoint.
Each piece of packaging has a life cycle that impacts the environment, from resource extraction and processing to packaging, shipping, use and end of life.
By saying no to disposable items, you’re not just stopping them from ending up in the landfill, you’re also saving all the natural resources and energy that go into their life cycle.
Even when compared to single-use packaging that is recyclable or compostable at the end of its life (which, by the way, is far from guaranteed), reusable containers are always the better environmental option, because their life cycle is extended via multiple uses.
So, fellow citizens, let's dust off all those reusable containers and put them back to work!
We must respect the science and get back to our good habits, in order to be more responsible consumers and citizens in all facets of life.
- Amélie Côté, Analyst, Reduction at the source, Équiterre
- Mélissa de La Fontaine, Co-founder and President of the Coopérative Incita
- Cindy Trottier, Founder and Executive Director, Circuit Zéro Déchet
- Aurore Courtieux-Boinot, Co-founder, La vague
- Magali Simard, Funding, partnership and membership, Association Québécoise Zéro Déchet
- Luise Stahl, Member of the Board and Program Coordinator, Net Impact Montreal