The announcement of the Kovid-19 pandemic launched not only unprecedented anti-epidemiological measures, but also a trend towards more widespread use of disposable plastic containers for food and beverage consumption. In the summer of 2020, in many tourist sites and restaurants, standard ceramic and metal utensils were replaced with disposable plastic plates, bowls, cups and utensils. As civic activists, we also noticed a significant increase in complaints from parents of children in kindergartens related to the “recommended use” of disposable drinking glasses. The shift from reusable to disposable containers in the context of the Kovid-19 Proliferation Prevention Measures contains and suggests to society that disposable containers are a more hygienic way to consume food and drink. It is important for society to maintain health and well-being, which happens by following good practices, scientific evidence and facts. The imposition of disposable utensils under the pretext that the latter provides more hygiene and security against the spread of any infections is biased, unfounded, unregulated and contains cardinal contradictions.

Plastic hygiene? Is there a connection between disposables and hygiene at all, and if so, what? Learn about the 7 biggest misconceptions about the “connection” between plastic and hygiene.

Myth 1: Disposable plastic utensils are sterile

Since the 1980s, disposable plastics have become increasingly popular in the field of medicine around the world. Disposable syringes, needles, gloves and other consumables significantly alleviate the in-hospital resources needed to sterilize reusable alternatives in the operating rooms, and more. The cost of disposing of these consumables in the years before it became clear what the consequences of the mass use of disposable plastics were was significantly lower than the cost of complying with the highest possible hygiene standards. Washing and sterilization, strict control of the flow of contaminated materials, overhead costs and the high investment threshold required to ensure autoclaves and other types of equipment for perfect hygiene are a combination of factors with a very high cost. Through disposable medical supplies, the medical service reduces its cost.

The myth of the purity of disposable plastic is to some extent based on its use in a medical context where plastic consumables are sterile. However, this does NOT apply to plastic containers intended for contact with food – plates, bowls, spoons, forks, cups. Two different classes of production are plastics intended for sanitary and hygienic needs and those for food. Plastics in the class “sanitary and hygienic needs” are made of different types of plastics, with different formulas and components, some of which have an antibacterial surface. Each medical consumable is actually sterilized by various technologies (including radiation) before being packaged in a protective environment. This plastic product has a special indication of sterility with the relevant certificate and expiration date. The price of the product is from 100 to 1000 times higher than a plastic analogue with a similar volume of plastic content in the plastics class for the food industry (we compare the body of a syringe with a fork, for example).

Disposable food containers have certificates of contact with food and certain certificates of mandatory qualities to be admitted for sale, but they are NOT sterile!

Myth 2: Better a poor horse than no horse at all

Long before the pandemic was declared, there were a number of measures to protect public hygiene and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Each workshop, restaurant, kindergarten, receive special permits to practice. The activity is controlled by the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency (BFSA) and the Regional Health Inspectorates (RHI). One of the main requirements, for example, is HACEP. It is a set of internal control systems for control, clean and dirty flows of dishes and materials, hygiene of all surfaces, health status of personnel employed in production; cooking; packaging; serving and transporting food. For reusable dishes, an official requirement of the BFSA has been set for the required temperature of washing and rinsing dishes. It is known that washing over is 63.5 º C neutralizes all pathogens. Therefore, dishwashers that operate at the appropriate temperature regime offer consumers guaranteed hygiene. Let us also recall the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) – washing with warm water and soap. Soap destroys the lipid layer of the virus and makes it non-viable. The short chain for the implementation of hygiene standards for reusable dishes is also much more reliable than the long chain for the implementation and control of disposable ones. Washing a metal fork, for example, takes place only a few meters from the place of consumption, for which 2-3 people are responsible in the HACEP system. A disposable plastic fork begins its life from an oil well on the other side of the planet, turning into a plastic granulate that is transported by air, land and sea before reaching molding plants and passing through hundreds of other hands in the distribution chain. from the factory, through logistics bases, intermediate warehouses, and more transportation to your hand. According to estimates by the global environmental organization Greenpeace, the path of a plastic object from the original source to your hand is 6,000 kilometers! It is worth thinking about the purity of the object and the control over this long chain of execution, right?

Myth 3: Plastic is cleaner because it is not used

Unused disposable plastic utensils should always be stored near the food and beverage service area. Mostly in open and unpacked stacks. It is not known how long ago they were unpacked, what contact they had with the environment. Characteristic of disposable glasses is the stacking and almost inevitable touching of the cup on the edge, which comes into contact with the mouth of the drinker. This compromises the hygiene of the vessel and adds many unknowns. Self-service cups and utensils, including plastic bags, are also exposed to influences from all passing users without hygiene control. Take, for example, the stacks of plastic cups in office water dispensers. How often does it happen to pull more than the required number of cups and then return to the stack? Another example is the rolls with plastic bags in large grocery stores. Statistics show that the separation of the edges of the bag is most often done by the method of “spitting finger”. Concerned users have posted more than 56,000,000 articles, videos and photos online with tips on how to open a plastic bag (bag opening frustration) without using saliva. This concept does not correspond to the generally accepted notions of hygiene, nor to the recommendations for limiting infectious diseases.

Myth 4: When we use plastic, we will prevent infection with Kovid-19

A large number of tests and a lot of controversy in science exist over how long the SARS-CoV-2 virus (Coronavirus COVID-19) stays on different surfaces. The topic directly affects the creation of adequate recommendations on how and how often to be sanitized / disinfected surfaces in the rooms where we gather on different occasions – work, study, eating, socializing. It is known that the virus can stay outdoors for up to several days. Its viability depends on atmospheric conditions – heat, moisture, light.

There are two indisputable scientific arguments that shatter the myths about the link between the use of disposable plastics and the proliferation of COVID-19. The first is that the droplet-saliva mode of distribution is predominant. Ie the infection is transmitted by air, from person to person. The second argument is that placed under equal conditions on different surfaces, the life of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is the longest on a plastic surface: about 6.8 hours on plastic. Followed by holding on to steel – 5.6 hours. Twice as short as the plastic surface, the virus lives on honey. It stays in the air the longest. If we assume that a plastic and a metal or ceramic container are located next to each other in a room, then we will know that if there is a virus on each of them, the probability of getting infected is greatest when eating food from a plastic plate. If we add the fact that the latter has never been sterilized or sanitized (see Myths 1 and 2), then it will not be in the service of the truth to claim that the use of plastic containers protects us in any way.

Myth 5: Disposable containers are recommended

The World Health Organization, which announced the global pandemic of COVID-19, monitors trends in the spread and development of the virus and last but not least – issues recommendations for coping and maintains a special section on its website dedicated to fake news and myths. The WHO has never recommended the use of disposable food and drink containers as a measure to limit the spread of the infection. The recommendation is to observe all hygienic norms as they have been so far, and to add to them the so-called social distance – avoid crowds in one place, and use personal protective equipment.

In the summer of 2020, we, as consumers, witnessed the removal of standard ceramic and metal utensils in many restaurants and tourist sites, and its replacement with disposable plates, bowls, cups and utensils made of disposable plastic. It is interesting that the recommendations are issued by health inspectors in the region and are oral, ie. without any written instructions. Such recommendations, although followed by owners of restaurants and tourist sites, remain informal because they do NOT reflect WHO guidelines, nor official guidelines of the Ministry of Health (MoH), nor are they based on facts and scientific evidence.

Myth 6: Experts believe that disposable dishes are more hygienic

The WHO has never issued a recommendation for the use of disposable plastic containers as a measure to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, but once some Bulgarian health inspectors recommend this measure, perhaps they are right?

Shortly after the official announcement of the pandemic, more than 150 leading scientists, virologists, epidemiologists and health experts from 18 countries came together in an official statement containing their common position in support of the facts. In it, the experts unanimously state that there are absolutely no scientific facts to justify the requirement to use a disposable container for higher hygiene. It is necessary to continue to comply with all basic hygiene requirements as they were before the pandemic. This is a sufficiently sufficient measure of prevention. Allegations of higher hygiene of disposable dishes are scientifically unfounded.

“Based on the best available scientific facts and recommendations from public health experts, it is clear that reusable systems can be used safely by applying basic hygiene practices.

Myth 7: Dedicated to all those who are still convinced that it is hygienic to use disposable plastic.

Disposal of disposable plastic in the environment is not and cannot be hygienic. The environment is the living environment from which man and all living beings draw the substances we need for our physical existence. Each person drinks 1-3 liters of water a day and inhales 6000 liters of air, eats between 0.300 – 1.5 kg of food per day. When all these basic components for maintaining life and health are contaminated, we cannot talk about hygiene. Plastic is a man-made synthetic material whose composition is not found in nature. Therefore, plastic is a mechanical and chemical contaminant. The role of a mechanical pollutant is microplastic – tiny plastic particles that enter our digestive system, then into the blood and organs, and scientists still have no information about the damage that this type of pollution causes to our bodies. The role of a chemical contaminant is the components that make up the plastic. They enter the human body precisely through the environment – through the soil, water, by air. And now the facts about the state of the living environment, strongly influenced by the habit of disposing of disposable plastic for “hygiene” purposes. In the last 10 years alone, more plastic has been produced in the world than in the previous 100 (since the discovery of bakelite in 1907). 300 million tons of plastic are produced annually, which is approximately equal to the total weight of all people inhabiting the Earth.

So far, there are 8 billion tons of accumulated plastic waste on Earth. Distributed next to each other, they cover the entire area of ​​the planet. Microplastics are found in over 80% of all salt samples in the world. Traces of plastic are found in the blood and metabolic products of 95% of people worldwide.

Microplastics, as well as the chemical synthetic agents of which they are composed, have been shown to cause metabolic disorders (hormonal problems, obesity, reproductive problems, including infertility) and cancer for people of all ages.

The conclusion

We need a qualitative change in the attitude towards disposable plastic. When society is misled into believing that the use of disposable plastic products is justified by false claims of more hygiene and is presented as a healthy practice, we will become increasingly ill. Health is important. And the achievement of this much-desired good depends on the participation of each of us in preserving the purity of our living environment, also called “environment”. Therefore, we can say that if there is a connection between hygiene and disposable plastic, then this connection is rather inversely proportional. Especially when we look at it in the long run. However, there will be no long-term plan if we continue to ignore the alarming signals for our own health and continue to dispose of unprecedented amounts of this age-old pollutant.



  1. Може ли медицината да съществува без пластмасата? National Geographic Science
  2. ХАСЕП (НАССР) система. БАБХ
  3. “The Conversation“ Journal
  4. The story of a spoon. Видео. Greenpeace International
  5. Източник: The New England Journal of Medicine
  6. World Health Organization. (СЗО. Съвети към обществото във връзка с COVID-19)
  7. Health Expert Statement Addressing Safety of Reusables andCOVID-19
  8. Break Free From Plastic
  9. Пластмасов Атлас. Break Free From Plastic и За Земята


Improving public knowledge about the role of Civil Society Organizations

The project “Improving public knowledge about the role of Civil Society Organizations” shall be implemented with the financial support of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA Financial Mechanism. The main goal of the project is to improve citizens’ awareness of the role of non-governmental organizations in society. This material is established with the financial support of the Active Citizens Fund of Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area. The whole responsibility for the content of the document is held by the Public Environmental Center for Sustainable Development and under no circumstances can this material be considered to reflect the official opinion of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Active Citizens Fund of Bulgaria.