The Strategist

Virus and waste: garbage volumes jump high during COVID-19 pandemic

06/29/2020 - 06:26

COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantine measures associated with it have resulted in a significant reduction in harmful emissions into the atmosphere. However, other side effects of the pandemic were less positive for the environment: in particular, the use of plastic, and, consequently, the amount of plastic waste have significantly increased.

For now, there is no exact data about the number of plastic waste. At the same time, according to calculations of the International Association for Solid Waste Management in the United States, the use of disposable plastic has increased by 250–300% since the beginning of the pandemic.

Grand View Research research company also noticed a sharp flash of plastic due to the growth of disposable masks: it amounted to $ 800 million in the last year, and will reach $ 166 billion in the current year, according to company forecasts. Calculations of scientists from the Portuguese University of Aveiro, published in the middle of June in the Environment, Science & Technology magazine, showed that 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves have already been used during the pandemic in the world.

The growing popularity of Internet shopping in the wake of the pandemic also contributes to the greater contamination of the environment with plastic, as all goods are packaged in plastic bags or film. According to the Peterson Institute of World Economy, in China alone a quarter of all goods was purchased online in the first quarter of the year. In March, when Europe and the United States started introducing lockdown measures, the number of visitors to Amazon has grown by 65% to 2.5 billion people worldwide. The same can be said about the delivery of food - it is packed in plastic bags and containers and is accompanied by disposable serviceware. In the United States alone, Uber Eats food sales grew by 54% in the first quarter.

Such a growth of plastic garbage can affect the oceans, pollution of which has been causing many concerns in recent years. According to the UN, 13 million tons of plastic waste are dumped in the oceans annually.

The nature protection organization OceansAsia reported in February that large number of disposable medical masks was found on the islands of Soko in the Hong Kong area among the plastic waste. One of the founders of the organization, Gary Stokes, he found 70 such masks on only one beach with a length of about 100 m. "Medicine has been using disposable surgical masks for decades, and this was not a problem, because the procedure of disposal was provided… But when the coronavirus started, the masks were scattered on the streets or found in the ocean," – he said.


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