The Year of Disposables – How to Keep the Environment in Mind During these Unprecedented Times

With Stage 3 around the corner for us here in Ontario, individuals and businesses have had to rethink how they conduct everyday tasks to protect their families, employees, customers, and clients from contracting or spreading COVID-19. With these safety protocols in place, many businesses and individuals have chosen to switch to disposable products to ensure the highest precaution is taken to detain the virus. This includes, but is not limited to, disposable disinfectant wipes, cutlery, take out containers, plates, masks, and everything in between. Although its obvious we all need to prioritize stopping the spread of the virus, we need to also keep in mind our increased wastefulness. For almost every disposable product, there is a more sustainable alternative. This blog aims to provide you with some suggestions on how to decrease your wastefulness as we continue

Masks

The use of masks has proven to be an effective approach in decreasing the spread of COVID-19. Given this, they are an encouraged item to wear when you go uptown to do groceries or fulfill other essential needs. Some stores, hospitals, and other establishments, have chosen to offer disposable masks at their entrance ways (great example of this is Costco – who requires you to wear a mask while shopping in their stores).  These masks are great in a pinch, but have a very limited life cycle. Once you use it once (maybe twice depending on duration of use), it is considered garbage. They are not recyclable or reusable, and therefore go straight into the landfill. An alternative to this is to purchase, or make your own, reusable mask. These can be used several times over the course of the year and are machine washable. Additionally, they are relatively low cost and are just as effective as disposable surgical masks.

Take Out Containers, Plates & Cutlery

Restaurants across the country are focusing on take out options more then ever before. This means more “to go” containers, disposable cutlery and disposable napkins going out the door in place of their reusable versions. Restaurant owners need to consider curbing their environmental impact by using compostable versions of these types of products, in which all exist & in some cases, are more cost effective then other types. There are many types of containers, including some that are garbage and some that are recyclable. Although the recyclable ones are much better then those that are considered garbage, they are most likely more costly then those that are compostable, in comparison. Given this, the most economic and environmentally friendly thing to do is to focus on a completely compostable “to go” type products.  

Disinfectant Wipes

When the pandemic first started, it was difficult to find disposable wipes anywhere – shelves were cleared in what seemed like seconds. Although these do a great job at disinfecting, and are convenient, they are full of chemicals and go directly into the landfill after their use.  An alternative to this would be plant based, eco-friendly disinfectant solution (there are lots of brands, however, 7 Generation and Method brand both make amazing ones), sprayed/put on paper towels. This is just as effective as any disinfectant wipe, but healthier for you, your family and the environment. Paper towel with an eco-friendly, plant based disinfectant can go directly into your compost bin. For convenience on the go – coat paper towel with the disinfectant and place inside a reusable container or bag. An easy zero waste and harsh chemical free solution!

Hand Sanitizer

Although hand sanitizer is necessary during these times, there are better ways to go about purchasing it rather then in multiple tiny bottles. Although we all need hand sanitizer on the go, a more sustainable option would be to buy a larger bottle of it and continuously refill smaller containers you already own. Perhaps these containers are reusable containers or even just hand sanitizer containers that have run dry.

Overall, there are lots of things we as a society can be doing to reduce, reuse and recycle – even in the midst of a pandemic. We should not make the pandemic an excuse to increase our waste outputs when there are plenty of viable, sustainable solutions to meet the needs of everyone. Individuals and businesses alike need to consider the long term affects that extra or excessive garbage will have to our earth and our communities if we do not make the right choices now. I hope that this blog has inspired you to rethink how you go about your waste generation while staying healthy in the current pandemic.