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;
- 125 Health experts confirm safety of reusables during pandemic
- Tweet endorsing the statement above from one of Ireland’s best know immunologist Luke O’Neill
- The Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s guidelines on Reusables
Best of luck, and now on with this week’s positive sustainable stories.
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