Covid-19: Is it safe to use reusable cups at events?

Cast your mind back to the beginning of the pandemic. We all had to change the way we did things quickly, following new face masks rules and choosing to travel by foot over public transport became - and continues to be - the norm. For coffee lovers, one big shift that felt like breaking the rules was the ban on reusable mugs at our local cafés. 

All of a sudden, the reusable cups that once made us feel like we were doing our bit to save the planet, became unsafe. Alongside cups, reusable plastic bags, food cartons and straws got ditched for ‘safer’ single-use options. So much so that the demand for single-use plastics increased by 57% during the pandemic. 

This huge increase in the use of single-use plastics felt like a massive regression in our fight against the Earth’s plastic pollution problem. The health of the planet was quickly put on the back burner as fears over the spread of Covid-19 took centre stage. 

In June last year, more than 100 scientists signed the Green Peace Health Expert Statement which addressed the safety of reusables throughout the pandemic. Hailing from countries across Europe, the USA and the rest of the globe, the experts assured that by following best hygienic practices, hand washing and protecting workers, reusables can be used as safely as single-use plastics. 

As well as following good cleaning advice, the scientists concluded that the virus spread primarily from inhaling aerosolized droplets rather than through contact with surfaces. What’s more, the virus is said to live just as long on surfaces made from plastic, cardboard, stainless steel and paper. So, discarded single-use plastics could pose more of a threat than cleaned reusables.

After this statement, and campaigns from various environmental charities, the ban on reusable cups and containers was lifted in August 2020. 

Despite the lifting of this ban, there is still some anxiety around reusables used at events, concerts and festivals, when people leave the cleaning to event organisers. The Sustainable Events Alliance is here to put worries to rest. 

In their recent publication called Reusables: Hygiene at events, the global alliance of individuals, events and businesses have set out clear aims and guidelines for event planners to follow to ensure their reusables are safe for use as the pandemic restrictions ease. 

The guide covers things like the best practice for handling, cleaning and drying as well as the best ways to engage both the public and workers to combat misinformation and speak about hygiene concerns. 

Over 60 businesses, charities and stakeholders have signed the Global Reusables at Events Hygiene Declaration which proves that industry leaders are dedicated to ensuring that this year’s events are safe. So, don’t let your worries about reusables stop you from missing another year of gigs, concerts, theatre shows and festivals! 

You can download a copy of Reusables: Hygiene at events, here!

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 3 June 2021
Next review: 3 June 2024