Reusables, disposables & hygiene

Let’s focus on reusables, disposables and hygiene. Many caterers are evaluating what is best – reusable cups and containers, or single use? Here’s some food for thought – focusing on public health.

A professor of Food Studies has written a detailed report exploring risks of cross-contamination and foodborne illness. Professor David A McDowell of Ulster University suggests that without major changes in how reusables are handled, we will have:

Greater persistence and circulation of foodborne pathogens within the human food chain, and increased risks of human foodborne illness in our community.

He writes that society needs robust dishwashing systems to ensure the safety of any big shift to reusable cups and containers and concludes that:

The evidence is clear. The potential for the persistence / transfer of foodborne pathogens on reusable packaging and food service ware, remains a clear and present hazard, especially at the retail / service / consumer interface.

Ulster University’s Emeritus Professor of Food Studies, David A McDowell

You can read the full report here.

So how can you reduce exposure to potentially harmful bacteria? An Aston University study concluded that people should wash reusable cups as soon as possible after use. But when you’re on the go, hygienic washing isn’t always practical. And adding food into the mix, not just drinks, complicates things further.

Balancing reusables, disposables & hygiene

So what is best practice? Disposable cups were developed 100 years ago. For hygiene reasons, this simple innovation surged in popularity in the flu pandemic of 1918. But as we are all too aware, single use packaging can bring its own challenges – in terms of resource use and waste management.

At Vegware we make our catering disposables from renewable, lower carbon, recycled or reclaimed materials. Our range is designed to be commercially compostable with food waste, where accepted. We work closely with the waste sector to help set up composting schemes in many countries, and UK-wide courier post-back services. Even in incineration, plant-based PLA offers benefits over conventional plastics.

We support reusables where they are safe and practical. Otherwise, we advocate plant-based and compostable foodservice packaging. Sustainable disposables come into their own in many foodservice situations. Maybe there are no commercial dishwashers installed and safe cleaning is not possible. Maybe your customers eat the food and drink far away from where it was served. Maybe collecting used cups and crockery is a challenge. Maybe water usage is an issue locally.

Best of both

Many Vegware clients combine reuse and single use with great success. We consider this to be best of all worlds – reuse if safe and practical, or alternatively, plant-based disposables which can be part of a zero waste composting scheme.

The Covid pandemic has really brought these issues into focus. Some catering clients now depend more on single use to meet their hygiene and distancing needs. Others now depend more on takeaway and delivery to secure livelihoods.

Either way, disposables have played a part in enabling safe and socially-distanced catering – find out more in our comprehensive Back to Business brochure. Contact us today to discuss how our products can play a part in a comprehensive waste, resource and hygiene strategy.