Plastic in Pandemic! Reduced or Increased?

 The miracle material, plastic, has made our modern life possible. However, 40% of it is used only once, which is a threat and all of us are aware of it. Now, with everyone at home, due to the lock-down imposed because of the COVID19 pandemic, the amount of plastic used must be reduced, Isn't it? Plastic in Pandemic! article gives you a clear understanding of things you have not given much care about. Okay let's come to that question later my dear friend. let me take you on a crisp journey.... 

Pandemic and plastic

Plastic, plastic, and plastic. We have always been addicted to plastic. From the polyethene we use, to the chewing gum we chew. All of that is made from plastic particles. Plastic has always posed a great threat to our natural eco systems and wildlife. December 2019, when the first case of COVID-19 came into the light and in March 2020, WHO declared COVID19 a global pandemic. Human life came to a standstill as countries shut internal and external activities.

Entrenched in the pandemic life since then till date, each of us has dutifully owned our masks, avoided crowds, and limited our travel in our collective desire to flatten the curve. (Fast-forward to monsoon, and here we still are, with hope on the horizon)

Is Pandemic all about Economic loss only?

What started with a health crisis slowly evolved into an economic, social, and environmental threat. Although there is a direct effect on nature, i.e., the carbon emissions decreased, air pollution cleared, and in 2020, the largest and deepest hole in the ozone is also covered. (Probably due to the pandemic). Some of the good news, and an actual positive news in the midst of those positive cases we hear regularly on any news channel or see on any news paper. But we have forgotten the plastic damage we did.

Plastic Waste

How COVID19 Pandemic is a 'Plastic' Problem?

To win the battle against COVID, all the countries were on high alert towards their healthcare system. The coronavirus has put up a trend to create more plastic trash. There is mass production of masks, PPE kits, medical goggles, and gloves. There was a massive rise in PPE(Personal Protection Equipment) as many healthcare systems were crashing with the rise in many cases. Face masks like N95, and surgical masks, are made up of a considerable portion of plastic material which is not recyclable.

Face Masks

The global mask production rate has seen tremendous rise and will continue to rise in the upcoming years. As an example, globally, China is the primary producer of face masks and with the highest population and cheapest labour, it has produced 116 million masks per day in February 2020, that’s 12 times higher than usual. Online orders have risen dramatically since the introduction of stay-at-home/work-from-home. The use of packaging materials on a one-to-one basis has increased, and the production of waste from them at the consumer’s end. 

With the rate we are producing, consuming and managing plastic, there will be 113% increase in the plastic leakage into oceans by 2040. This is 30 million metric tons of plastic that we are talking about which will end in the ocean per year. For 7.8 billion people around the world, monthly consumption of facial masks and medical gloves is estimated to be roughly 129 billion and 65 billion, respectively just in and around an year.

COVID waste

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted and rattled practically every element of our life, resulting in a significant shift in consumer behavior. According to numerous studies, the intensity of the pandemic increased the amount of plastic garbage generated by health care and other establishments.

How shall we overcome these problems?

We may find that our dependency on plastic has increased even as lockdowns and other restrictions are gradually relaxed. Thus, there is a significant need for innovations. Few of them might focus on tackling difficulties in plastic collection and the others can concentrate on integrating latest technologies in the segregation of plastic including treating, with the existing waste management system.

Here are a few ways how mismanagement and litter of plastic is controlled
  • Research & Development in the industries of gloves, masks, and PPE kits, to produce eco-friendly / biodegradable or reusable gears.

Change starts from YOU!

  • The change should start from you. Individuals, families and societies should collect and dispose off the discarded PPEs using color-coded bags to avoid littering and mismanagement.
  • Furthermore, community-wide color-coded containers must be installed to ensure proper collection and disposal of used PPEs. This initiative can be taken by societies separately and collaborate to work it out.

  • Adjustments in our daily activities may pave the way for reducing plastic trash. Rethinking how we purchase and order necessities online might result in more efficient resource use. For example, choosing soap dispenser bottles or refillable hand washes/hand sanitizers over disposable bottles, using reusable shopping bags with proper disinfection are some of the eco-friendly behaviors that we can adopt to safeguard our environment fighting the battle to prevent plastic pollution.
Thus, the problem of Plastic cannot be solved by governments alone but need the collective effort of people, government and the companies. Let us all strive towards giving the next generation a better and less polluted Planet Earth. Take the pledge today along with Lifenatphil to reduce your own plastic footprint.

Cherish Mundra - Author 

If you feel there are some other things too that can be done but we missed in the article, comment below!

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  1. I understand that you can wash these masks a few times before throwing them away, so at least it helps to decrease the amount of mask waste that we are now producing.


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