The impacts of the COVID-19 on the Zero-Waste Movement and our reuse ventures

Only a month ago, the conversation surrounding reusables and the zero-waste movement was positive and gaining in momentum. It seemed like an increasing number of businesses began leaping into the idea of circularity, adopting reusables into their offerings and considering how they could be more environmentally virtuous. But as the movement started glinting with light, the outbreak of COVID-19, was quick to cast a shadow of suspicion over it. But worry not, because the zero-waste movement is here to stay.

The zero-waste movement amidst the pandemic

We at the Zero Waste Living Lab, who have made reusables the core of our ventures, we still believe that reuse instead of disposal has the greatest and greenest long-term impact for the planet, and when done well, there should be no worry about the spread of viruses like COVID-19. We believe that every item reused is one less contribution to landfills and the ocean, one less unnecessary resource used. That’s why we’re taking a closer look at how we can reduce the spread of the virus and even grasp the new opportunities that arise for the zero-waste movement and our ventures.

The most significant shift the outbreak has brought to the world is a heightened awareness of hygiene and cleanliness. Consumers are now more concerned than ever of who has touched items and how they have been cleaned. It is important, therefore, to help consumers feel safe and break the perception that reusables aren’t as hygienic as single-use plastic items – because, with the right measures in place, reusables can be as safe as their less eco-friendly disposable counterparts (or even safer because you know who’s touched them). For each of our ventures, we have introduced even more stringent sanitization procedures that protect the consumer as well as the employees.

Precautionary measures taken by our zero-waste ventures

Currently, our venture Econesia has distributed over 4,000 glass bottles to hotels in 18 different cities in Indonesia to be used with the installed water filtration system. To help guide the hotel staff and prevent any contamination, an updated step-by-step directive was issued last week outlining how the bottles, crates, and brushes should be cleaned, that masks should be worn during refilling and how to safely store the bottles. This directive has also been shared with the hotel customers to ensure that they know every precaution has been taken and the bottles are safe to use.

Our other venture Kecipir is also prioritising the health and wellbeing of customers and employees. As an increasing number of people are staying at home to prevent community spread, they are also skipping supermarkets and opting for alternative ways to put food on their table. Kecipir’s farm-to-fork food service stands out as such an alternative – as sales orders have doubled since the outbreak – and is actively helping people maintain physical distancing through home deliveries. Compared to Econesia, Kecipir has a few more human points of contact, with farmers, packers and delivery drivers all handling the harvested fruits and vegetables at some point during the process. It is, therefore, even more important to ensure that the customers are safe purchasing a Kecipir food order. Hand sanitization has been implemented at all points in the supply chain, thorough cleaning of delivery boxes and bags is ensured and all drivers keep the recommended distances during delivery.

Let’s recognise in this crisis an opportunity for change

The health concerns brought about by COVID-19 are pressing and it is encouraging to see how communities are coming together to prevent the spread. And as this time of crisis is turning around the usual way we live our day to day lives, including the way we consume, let us also take it as an opportunity to shift our behaviours towards benefitting both people and nature. Therefore, let’s continue to find creative ways to adapt existing supply chains and grow the zero-waste movement while ensuring the safety of consumers. Hopefully, this outbreak will remind us of our common fate on a small crowded planet with dwindling resources and how it is up to us to make the changes to protect it.

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