After decades of bitter fights, environmentalists seemed to be winning the war against single-use plastics in recent years, with cities around the world banning or taxing them. Then the new coronavirus arrived, raising fears that reusable goods might lead to infections. The impact has been swift. From Maine to Hawaii, bans on plastic bags have been suspended or postponed. In San Francisco, reusable shopping bags — once totems of the city’s vibrant commitment to sustainability — have simply been outlawed.

These reversals have sparked deep concern among activists. Some fear the bans will never be reinstated; others that reusable products may be permanently tainted as “unsafe.” The good news is that activists aren’t the only ones demanding more sustainable packaging these days. So are consumers — and some of the world’s biggest corporations are paying attention.

These shifting perceptions haven’t gone unnoticed by consumer brands. Over the past decade, some of the biggest have adopted ambitious sustainability agendas. In 2017, Apple Inc. rolled out an aggressive strategy to embrace sustainable paper and cardboard, which resulted in a 30 percent reduction in plastic use in iPhone 7 packaging. The next year, nearly 300 global organizations, including companies such as Nestle, Mondelez International and Colgate-Palmolive pledged to eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging entirely.