Restaurants opting for single-use cutlery to cater to their customer’s safety post lockdown are a threat to the environment. Single-us cutlery which is considered safe is leading to waste management problems and environmental degradation.
The pandemic has altered the perception of single-use products, as they are considered more hygienic than reusable items. As restaurants reopen, many are opting to use single-use cups, cutlery, and plates instead of reusable. In the wake of covid-19, many restaurants have gone back to single-use plastic cutlery to provide customers with clean and first-use packaging. Plastic waste is hazardous to the environment generating tons of solid wastes every day.
Chanda Burman owner of Gully Café said, “We started using single-use cutlery because it is for the safety of our customers as well as our staff. If you want people to come to your restaurants and eat you have to provide them that level of safety.” She added, “People are now skeptical towards using washable dishes most of them ask for single-use cutlery.” The fear of contracting the virus has led to huge demand among customers for single-use cutlery. Ramyani Bhattacharjee who frequently goes out to eat said, “Since the pandemic, I have started preferring one-time use cutleries. Even when I go to a roadside tea shop, I prefer one-time-use cups. So, this Covid-19 virus spread from one person to another, I think I feel safer when I use these onetime use cutleries, I want something that I’m using for the first time.”
Take-aways and online deliveries are dependent upon single-use plastic bags, containers, and utensils. More than half of the plastic used is thrown away without being considered for recycling or being put to other uses. The owner of Trahin Recycle Company said, “There are various sorts of plastics as well the one with low-value plastic or multi-layer plastics are non-recyclable.” He added, “All these cutlery items are made up of very poor-quality plastic which is not at all recyclable.”
Plastic cutlery has a lot of impacts on the environment even before it gets to the market. This is because there is a lot of energy and carbon that are emitted during their production leading to the addition of heat and carbon to the atmosphere. This carbon, in the form of carbon dioxide, along with other greenhouse gases such as methane contributes to climatic change. Most of the chemicals released during the production of plastics such as vinyl chloride and benzene are carcinogenic and neurotoxin. The use of plastic cutlery also leads to an increase in the amount of plastic entering landfills. Without clear directives on how to discard plastic cutlery after use, they can often be found spread all over the streets. The alternative suggests also come with their own problems. Sandeep who is an environmentalist and also a researcher said, “Paper cannot hold water, so any cutlery that claims to be paper is not paper it has diffused plastic or diffused wax in it. This material cannot even recycle because there is a combination of materials. When you have a combination of materials the recycling companies don’t take it.”