Plastic Waste from COVID
By. Stephanie Lam
The COVID19 pandemic has not only caused health crises across the world, but it has also caused a major plastic pandemic. Disposable masks, gloves and face shields, individually wrapped food orders and utensils in plastic bags, and bubble-wrapped online shopping are daily plastic that we all use. The drastic accumulation of this single-use plastic decimates the industry’s ability to manage and recycle plastic waste effectively.
What is Happening?
According to a September 2020 article published on the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the prioritization of people’s health over the environment's health has led to increased amounts of single-use plastic. This prioritization occurs at the local, national, and even international level. The article states that the global plastic packaging market size increased by 5.5%, from 909.2 billion in 2019 to 10112.6 billion in 2021, due to the pandemic. The sudden and overwhelming amount of plastic puts pressure on waste management facilities. These facilities have to increase the number of landfills and local burnings to get rid of the waste.
According to an August 2020 article published on Wood Mackenzie, a global energy analysis website, panic-buying single-use recyclable items in bulk have made the demands for plastic greater. As a result, the prices of plastic have dropped, making it more affordable and accessible for packaging companies to use.
How You Can Help:
We don’t know when the pandemic will be over, but we can still do our part to cut back on our plastic use. Here are tips on how you can reduce your carbon footprint while maintaining proper COVID-19 precautions.
Wear a Reusable Mask/Gloves
Opt to wear a cloth mask instead of a disposable one when you go outside. Cloth masks can be worn multiple times and can easily be washed. This will stop you from accumulating a trash bin full of disposable masks that will end up in the landfill. If you want to wear gloves to protect your hands, wear fabric ones instead.
Bag Your Own Groceries
Many grocery stores or businesses have banned people from bringing their own bags since the pandemic began. However, you should always make sure to have a reusable bag ready in your purse or car. You never know when your local store will start allowing you to bring a reusable bag inside. This will help stores and businesses cut down on their amount of plastic or paper bag use. Is this still current?? Are they still banned in some places?
Reuse Single-Use Plastic at Restaurants
If you are ordering takeout, you can refuse extra disposable silverware and plastic bags. Most restaurant workers will automatically put paper napkins and utensils in your order, creating excess waste. You can use your own cloth napkins and metal silverware at home and wash them afterward instead.
Stephanie Lam is an editorial intern who likes finding unique ways to write about culture, fashion and lifestyle.