Consumables with single-use plastic components has been vital in the fight against COVID-19 especially for our front line health workers. With an urgent increase in demand for masks, gloves, plastic cups, medical supplies, PPE, bin bags and the increased demand for home food deliveries and takeaways utilising single-use containers, the effects are showing up on our beaches, in busy streets, in landfill and in big bags of medical waste sitting outside hospitals in almost every country around the globe.
Through the chaos and panic of the pandemic, the plastic-free movement has been somewhat forgotten, and targets/goals set by governments to ban single-use plastic items. Although in some places these are necessary, desperately required resources to protect the worlds people, plastic waste was already a major issue for our planet that was forcing our leaders to take action. It’s essential that we keep our sights on the long term effects of the plastic pandemic facing the human race.
It’s early days on estimating how much extra plastic was produced since the pandemic raised demand, but it is estimated that hospitals in Wuhan, China produced more than 240 tonnes a day of waste, compared to their normal ~40 tonnes a day.
In the UK, illegal waste disposal has risen by 300% since the outbreak and it has been reported by countries all over the world that less waste is coming through recycling facilities, meaning that waste is going to landfill or ending up in the environment. This is not a good outcome and demonstrates complacency.
It’s imperative now more than ever to take action and to invest in our planet, get back into good recycling practices, compost your food waste, swap out your plastic items for more eco-friendly or reusable alternatives, and use re-useable cloth masks. If we can’t start fixing this problem for ourselves, it’s going to become a terrible legacy that we leave for our children and grandchildren.