Of the numerous ways the coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives, the banning of multiple-use cups by many coffee shops and other outlets serving hot drinks most likely does not appear at the top of many people’s lists. However the move is most likely to add to the mountain of waste stacking up as the pandemic has resulted in a reliance on large amounts of single-use plastic and brought recycling to a halt.

On the other hand, as lockdown constraints lift, more people are able to visit dining establishments or the homes of good friends or household. And some may be concerned about eating with plates, cups and flatware that other people have managed or consumed from.

In reaction, a group of researchers has actually endorsed the reasonable usage of recyclable containers as safe and unlikely to contribute to the further spread of COVID-19. Here’s why that’s the case – and why cafes need to lift their recyclable cup restrictions.

Coronavirus particles are transferred from individual to individual in beads of moisture from the mouth and nose. This suggests coughs and sneezes are a crucial source of transmission, but deposits of saliva – for instance, left on a cup when you sip from it – could likewise include the infection.

The thinking behind social distancing steps, such as keeping 2 metres far from others and wearing a face covering when closer to them for any length of time is to stop the virus being passed between people in public areas. However research studies reveal that cough and cold infections tend to remain on surfaces, consisting of plastic, for up to a number of days.

Early signs are that this is also real of the novel coronavirus behind the pandemic, SARS-CoV-2. And we also understand that items can play a substantial role in the transmission of respiratory and viral diseases. (Scientists call items that transfer illness “fomites”.).

There is still much that virologists do not understand about the infection, but we do understand that it is inactivated when it comes into contact with cleaning agent. That indicates using soap on hands, disinfectant on surface areas and washing-up liquid on cups and plates are all methods to successfully eliminate SARS-CoV-2.

This is because the virus is surrounded by a fatty envelope, which need to be undamaged for the virus to remain infectious. This is easily interrupted by detergent, such as washing-up liquid. This means reusable containers could in fact be safer if they are frequently and appropriately washed than single-use ones that may have been exposed to the environment for a long period of time and not cleaned prior to usage. A pile of used containers sitting in an overflowing bin might also be a risk.

Of course, a cleaned multiple-use container could still become contaminated with and transfer the virus as it’s passed in between a client and a server. So cafes and bars will have to discover an appropriate method to serve beverages, such as the consumer putting their own cup on a tray and passing it across a counter to be filled by an individual wearing personal protective equipment. This would minimise the threat of the infection being unintentionally moved onto the beyond a clean cup or glass by either celebration.

Numerous individuals are hoping that post-COVID-19 life will not involve a return to the same levels of consumption of the world’s resources. By the end of 2019, it had begun to end up being regular to bring a recyclable cup when purchasing a drink for takeaway outside of the house. Cafes and bars were most likely to serve food and drink to customers utilizing china and glassware.

What we understand about SARS-CoV-2 suggests the pandemic shouldn’t suggest a return to single-use non reusable cups and plates. In fact, there might be reasons to prefer reusable items. So maybe it’s time to restore the custom of bringing your own beer tankard to the club.

Sarah Pitt, Principal Lecturer, Microbiology and Biomedical Science Practice, Fellow of the Institute of Biomedical Science, University of Brighton.