How is the COVID-19 Pandemic Affecting Plastic Pollution?

As seen on the news, the Global Pandemic has helped the environment when it comes to air pollution. Nevertheless, plastic pollution has been negatively affected by COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus pandemic rages on we can see that people prioritize our safety and precautions over the environment. Due to how rapidly and easily the virus is transmitted, people are making use of more disposable materials. Restaurants are making use of disposable menus and cutlery, while people are using disposable gloves and masks. Plastic is being used as a weapon against the virus, yet it continues to be a dangerous enemy against the planet. Reusable bags for shopping and cups for drinking have been banned in many locations.

The increase in the use of disposable materials has deeply affected the rates of plastic pollution. The priority over the last few months has been decreasing the rates of contamination of COVID-19, not the decrease in plastic pollution rates. People have been focusing on preventing the spread of the coronavirus by making extensive use of disposable materials, such as maks, food containers, menus, and gloves. Moreover, according to the article “The COVID-19 Plastic Waste Pandemic”, curbside recycling programs have been suspended by many communities and governments, which contributes to the increased rate in plastic pollution.

Even more so with the reopening of places. For instance, many restaurants in Florida are using disposable menus and cutlery in order to prevent the spread of the virus. The implications of the disposable trend might be permanent if not stopped in time. However, there is an eco-friendly alternative to many of these materials. I, for instance, am using reusable masks rather than the disposables ones. The fabric used in the mask in washables, henceforth I can use it multiple times.

There are ways in which we can decrease plastic pollution amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though many restaurants and stores decided to adopt disposable materials as their main resource to stop the rapid spread of the virus, many other places decided to make use of the technological developments in our modern society. According to “The Hill” Germany banned single-use of plastic straws, food containers, cutlery, and much more. In addition to that, Canada will follow Germany’s footsteps by banning harmful single-use plastic from coast to coast. Hopefully, Germany and Canada set a positive example and other countries will adopt this same measurement.

During this uncertain time, it is extremely difficult to do the right thing due to the fact that we cannot be fairly certain of what that is. Yet, we should do everything we can in order to help our planet. It may not be our main priority during this crisis, nevertheless, it should be considered just as important.

  • Resources to donate and/ or volunteer to help decrease rates of plastic pollution can be found on the “Plastic Pollution and its effects on Marine Wildlife” blog post.

4 thoughts on “How is the COVID-19 Pandemic Affecting Plastic Pollution?

  1. What a great topic for an article! This is something people should shine a light on, but instead, it seems it isn’t talked about enough.
    Recently I found myself wondering how this pandemic is affecting the environment and how this more prominent plastic usage is going to affect us later on. After much thinking, I came to the conclusion that using this much plastic, in the situation we are at the moment, is (unfortunately) irredeemably necessary.
    Of course, in the long term, this will probably have a great effect when it comes to environmental pollution, however, we came to a point where things are so bad that, in my opinion, we should focus more on the present rather than the future. As you mentioned, Germany and Canada are already one step ahead when it comes to the fair use of plastic, but let us not forget that these are very wealthy countries. My point is: I know the usage of plastic should be under a tight leash, but sometimes it’s just not possible because poorer countries can’t afford not using it (since it’s cheap and it works well in keeping this sterile).

    1. Thank you very much for your comment!! I completely understand that some countries are not as wealthy as Germany and Canada! Nonetheless, I wholeheartedly believe that we should start thinking of the future now or else it will be too late to help the environment.

  2. This post made me open my mind to the problems we are facing right now! Until now, all the time I thought about the pandemic, I associated it with at least being something positive for nature, which to some degree, is not incorrect. We are seeing, as mentioned a reduction in air pollution. But not everything is made of gold, and only with this post I could realize that in fact we are using even more plastic compared to life before the pandemic and it should be something that we need to fight to extinguish rather than incorporating to our daily lives. Things such as a plastic layer over the credit card machine and the gloves used for avoiding contact became popular and surely are making a huge negative impact in nature.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! At first, I also believed that the pandemic only brought positive changes to the environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped reduce carbon emissions. Yet, when looking at plastic pollution and the extensive use of disposable materials during this time, the negative effects of the pandemic in the environment can be seen.

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