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Plastic pollution is on spike due to COVID-19 crisis

Due to sudden attack of novel coronavirus pandemic across the world, lockdowns were imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country thereby regulation of transportation was restricted thus global demand for petroleum collapsed. As a result, oil prices plummeted, making the manufacture of virgin plastics from fossil fuels is cheaper than recycling. This cost incentive, along with lifestyle changes that increase plastic use, has complicated the challenge of overcoming plastic pollution.

While there are no doubts that our front-line workers need proper protection and medical equipment to keep battling this pandemic hence use of, personal protective equipment (PPE) has increased plastic pollution. In response to high PPE demand among the general public, health care workers, and service workers, single-use face mask production in China soared to 116 million per day in February, about 12 times the usual quantity. If the global population adheres to a standard of one disposable face mask per day after lockdowns end, the pandemic could result in a monthly global consumption and waste of 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves. Providing Accurate data on the increased use of single-use plastic and disposables in Hospitals of India hard to come by but they produced nearly about 90 million tons (such as disposable face masks, gloves, and gowns) per day at the peak of the pandemic, and before the pandemic occurred the daily usage was 17 million tons per year. Overall, it found a 47% rise in single-use plastic in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, and Pune.

Growing plastic pollution in wake of COVID-19: how trade policy can help |  UNCTAD



Individual choices during lockdowns also increased plastic demand. If we walk into a salon these days and prepare to be greeted by stylists in layers of PPE suits, masks, face shields, and gloves, all of the disposable material, usually plastic,  If we are planning for packaged take-out meals and home-delivered groceries then it also contributes an additional factor of plastic waste hence the demand for recycled plastic material has dropped, the profit margins of recycling have decreased, and due to inexpensive and durable factor, the environmental footprint of plastics has increased. The global plastic packaging market size is projected to grow mainly due to pandemic response but let’s not forget there is one pandemic we cannot simply turn blind eye to, a pandemic raging for years of environmental pollution. As this adds up in affecting wildlife, wildlife habitat, and humans moreover this pollution can afflict land, waterways, and oceans. Living organisms, mainly marine animals, get affected by mechanical effects, such as entanglement in plastic objects, problems related to the ingestion of plastic waste, or through exposure to chemicals within plastics.

By considering some other factors like usually carcasses were kept in a coffin, as it was but due to covid19 bodies are wrapped with plastic wraps. In this season, for the past 5/6 months all over the world around 600,000 died were wrapped with plastic (so that virus doesn’t spread). But the environment is handicapped. Though air pollution has come to a minimum, the ground is being contaminated. Think of the people who got recovered (around 100,00,000). So many masks, so many PPEs, general public using Masks. The environment is more contaminated in Corona, by the uses of surgical plastics.

Photos: Covid-19 aggravates India's biomedical waste crisis - india-news -  photos - Hindustan Times

This global health crisis puts extra pressure on regular waste management practices, leading to inappropriate management strategies, including mobile incineration, direct landfills, and local burnings. Improper disposal of just 1% of face masks translates to more than 10 million items, weighing 30,000 to 40,000 kg. Waterlogged COVID-19–related plastic has been observed on beaches and in water, potentially aggravating the challenge of curtailing microplastics.

We need an urgent and coordinated commitment to circular economy approaches, including recycling practices and strict policies against plastic pollution. Companies should continue efforts to curtail virgin plastic use and increase plastic recycling to live up to their corporate social and environmental responsibilities.

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