During the first few weeks after governments around the world issued lockdowns due to the COVID-19 crisis, there was a noticeable decline in carbon emissions and local air pollution. This environmental progress seemed like the silver lining in what was, and still is, a grave global situation.
One end of the spectrum shows the short-term environmental benefits of coronavirus-related lockdowns. There is a large drop in the consumption of jet fuel and gasoline. Electricity demand also decreased.
On the other end of the spectrum, researchers suggest that the global crisis will have devastating effects on investments in clean energy. These are likely to surpass the short-term benefits of the lockdown.
Renewable energy isn’t the only environmental factor that’s taking a hit because of the pandemic, though. Regular waste management is also heavily affected by COVID-19 safety precautions.
Plastic Waste Is Steadily Increasing
More people are conscious of the environment. They’re advocating reusable and biodegradable products in lieu of single-use plastics. Sustainable products like bamboo straws and tableware, glass jars and water bottles, and organic cotton bags and clothing have been trending in the last few years.
It seems like all these efforts in reducing the use of single-use plastics are going down the drain. The coronavirus situation is forcing people to use plastic products for the sake of not contracting the virus.
The steadily increasing use of plastic is evident around the world in different ways. For example, waste management and baling equipment in hospitals and other medical facilities now cater to a much larger amount of disposable masks, gloves, and protective medical suits that are primarily made of plastic.
And because people are asked to stay at home to avoid getting infected with the virus, households everywhere are also using more takeout containers and throwing away more delivery packaging.
How Do We Address the Increasing Rate of Plastic Waste?
Until a vaccine is invented or a cure is discovered for coronavirus, people will need to be extra cautious in terms of hygiene and sanitation. And while this means having an increased usage of plastics, you can play your part in minimizing its harmful effects on the environment. Take a look at these ideas:
- Consider using reusable cloth face coverings for when you have to go out.
- Don’t throw away takeout containers. Find other ways to use them at home.
- Be mindful of household waste. Segregate them accordingly
The use of plastics, especially single-use plastics, is unavoidable in this situation. But hospitals are using more plastic than households are. They have an increased need for face masks, surgical gloves, protective medical suits, and coronavirus test kits. This results in more biohazardous waste production.
While the health industry has yet to find more sustainable means of addressing this global health pandemic, the best thing to do is to be meticulous with waste management. This means properly disposing of medical waste, especially infectious and pathological waste. And as much as possible, hospitals should pay attention to the efficiency of their recycling and waste disposal processes.