Coronavirus and the environment

We consider if it’s possible to be COVID-secure and kind to the world we live in

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the world seemed to be at last waking up to the scope of the environmental catastrophe we’re facing.

Fuelled by high-profile activists from Britain’s Sir David Attenborough to child campaigner Greta Thunburg, the state of our air and oceans had made it to the top of everyone’s list of concerns.

And then, suddenly, we faced the much more urgent priority of avoiding infection and keeping people healthy – as the historic COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic hit worldwide.

Of course, that itself has had unexpected positive consequences, including dramatically reducing the amount of pollution in the atmosphere by keeping us all locked down at home and significantly reducing road and air travel. As a result, remarkable changes have been reported, from wildlife reclaiming urban areas to the famous waters surrounding Venice becoming clear for the first time in memory.

However, as with so many things we humans are involved in, another, equally serious, down-side has swiftly emerged. With thousands of people worldwide needing hospital treatment for COVID-19 and the rest of us needing to keep safe by donning unprecedented amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE), discarded masks – among other things – are already washing up on the world’s shores. The battle for sterility in everything from hospital and care environments to catering outlets, has seen historic amounts of masks, aprons, gloves and other disposable items being worn and then discarded.

We doubt there is anyone who’s not alarmed by this, but how do we counteract this damaging trend when disposable solutions are, without doubt, the safest and most cost-effective way of guarding against infection?

Well, all isn’t lost. Organisations and businesses have a lot to gain by doing the right thing, and can even boost their own reputations by taking steps to protect the environment.

Making the right choices

With many hospitality venues turning their hands to takeaway services to stay in business, there is potential for much more packaging and therefore waste there too. However, there are things they can do to mitigate the impact. They can opt for sustainable packaging, made from biodegradable and recyclable materials such as cardboard, paper and wood, rather than polythene, non-recyclable plastic or polystyrene. We have access to a wide array of such items and can advise on the ones best suited to any business.

However, we’re realists too, and we know that, because there is sometimes a premium attached to environmentally-friendly packaging, it’s not necessarily viable for every business, particularly those that have generated no income for a matter of months. Organisations have to balance cost-effectiveness with corporate responsibility. What we would say here is ‘don’t dismiss the idea of environmental choices out of hand on cost alone’, because what’s lost in a small mark-up in price can often be gained in customer buy-in and reputational benefit for their brand, which could potentially help them to emerge from the current crisis stronger than they went in.

Of course, as well as being environmentally responsible, there are health and safety aspects to choosing the right packaging, too. For example, catering outlets might want to consider changing what they serve their takeaway items in to minimise how much their staff have to touch the food they are serving. And providing secure bins for waste will also prevent infection from discarded items which have to then be picked up and handled by someone else.

Educating your customers and people in doing what’s right

Even if you can’t stretch to sustainable options for chemicals and PPE, though, there are other things you can do to limit any negative environmental impact, as well as cross-contamination risk, like providing plentiful bins to encourage people to discard their packaging responsibly rather than just throwing it down in the street or into hedgerows. After all, there is nothing more depressing than seeing a mask discarded by someone whose been to the local shop, blowing down a leafy village street.

We can help you source secure, clearly-labelled bins for every type of waste, to enable your customers to dispose of things correctly, as well as avoiding infection risk to themselves from touching others’ discarded items that have been left lying around.

You can even display messages around your premises about doing the right thing, and educate your customers and staff about how you would like them to behave. Again, we can supply a range of informational poster options to help you get your message across.

In our experience, as well as these being the right things to do, they will reap rewards for your businesses too. Of course, hygiene must come first at a time like the present, in order to protect health, but doing things right where possible in order to protect both people and the environment will help to enhance your reputation among customers. The responsibility you show in dealing with the current crisis will, without doubt, earn you their longstanding confidence and loyalty.

 Our latest product brochure contains examples of some of the environmentally-friendly solutions our suppliers are offering. To discuss your specific requirements, call 01482 327580 or email us.


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