Newsletter – August Week 3

As Ireland gears up for the return of schools the battle between disposables and reusables rages on. Some school boards and parents seem to be under the misunderstanding that single-use disposables are less likely to get contaminated with Covid-19 than reusable lunch boxes and water bottles.

First let me state that I am not in favour of reusables if it increases the risk of contamination. Human health trumps waste reduction in my opinion. It is for this reason that I haven’t resumed getting meat in my own containers at the butchers yet.  However, when it comes to school lunches single-use packaging and tableware does nothing to reduce the chance of transfer between home and school, and so why place the financial burden on parents and the environmental load on the planet?

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Let’s look at the logic of single-use over reusables in terms of contamination. If a student or teacher has Covid-19 there is a small risk that they could contaminate their lunch containers when making them up, but this risk is the same whether the container is single-use or reusable. Plus even if the container became contaminated it only poses a risk to someone else if they touch it and then touch their eyes or nose or ears.

Now if someone is using a reusable lunch box or bottle, there is a risk that it could be contaminated by aerosol droplets in the school and carry the virus back home, but this is also a risk with uniforms, schoolbags, book, pencil cases, shoes, coats etc. Best practice would suggest that we treat EVERYTHING that comes into the house as contaminated and either wash it with soap or detergent or isolated it for at least 72 hours. Doing something like this would be completely unworkable and I can see why school aren’t suggesting it, so for that reason it seems completely ridiculous to single out lunch containers as a potential source of contamination and ignore all others. A much more sensible approach is to treat returning items as contaminated and to sanitise them as much as possible, which in the case of lunch boxes and water bottles is easily done with soapy water. 

My daughter is due to start secondary in just over a weeks time. I haven’t heard anything from the school yet in relation to disposable and reusables. I’ve learned in the past to pick my battles with school principals, particularly when I’m new to a school. My son is in his school a few years and I feel more confident pushing the issue there.

If you need some sources to cite in communications with your school here are a few;

Best of luck, and now on with this week’s positive sustainable stories.

At the top of this page is a video of Fulu Muziki, a collective of artists from the DRC who create all their instruments from rubbish.

Umbrella sharing service in Japan using recycled ziploc bag umbrellas

Enfield Council in the UK to only serve vegan or vegetarian food at events from December in bid to fight climate emergency 

Check out the carbon footprint of popular dinner choices!

EU introduces tax on non-recyclable plastic to come into effect in 2021

We’ve just switched to this 100% renewable energy company

Stylish fashion boutique in India made from recycled materials.

Ganni & Levi launch denim rental scheme for vintage 501s

New pricing plan for electric car charging announced

A great short video explaining the source of global carbon emissions.

Wind farms on undegraded peatlands are unlikely to reduce future carbon emissions

The sexiest upcycled greenhouse ever!

India installing swathes of solar panels over their canals

UK’s biggest pension funds begin divestment from fossil fuels

Meat production in the US due to decline for a second year 

Untitled Goose game is the first video game in packaging made from recycled post-consumer waste

Disaster zone in Iraq become conservation success story

Handy little guide to fruit and veg in season in August

Britain’s woodland cover has returned to medieval levels thanks to 20th-century forestry and the “rewilding” trend.

Coillte Welcomes Announcement That 2,100 Hectares Of Atlantic Blanket Bog To Be Rewetted And Replanted

Germany is planning on banning spotlights to save insects 

Wildflower meadow being planted in front of Trinity

Global population due to drop with 23 nations – including Spain and Japan expecting to see their populations halve by 2100.

Autumn is said to be the best time to fit a bird box. Here’s a guide on how to make and place one

Vietnam bans wildlife imports, closing illegal wildlife markets as part of a global crackdown

Paying people to recycle in Haiti, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brazil and Egypt

Recycled plastic combs made in Cork from locally sourced plastic!

K-Briq: An eco-friendly building brick made from 90% recycled construction and demolition waste

Help African wildlife by buying stunning photographic prints

Plastic free face-shields, now available in Ireland from Reuzi

Zero carbon McDonalds opens in Florida

Unused Guinness used to fertilise Christmas trees during lockdown

Thanks for reading. You can find me on Facebook on Instagram between now and next Friday.


Published by Elaine Butler

I am a circular design consultant helping manfacturers prepare for the circular economy

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