Has Covid Plastic Waste Led Us Into Another Crisis?

Plastic Waste

Plastic has played a significant role in saving the lives of Covid-19 victims. Plastic in the form of personal protection equipment’s (PPE) is a global saviour. But these gloves and masks settle in the bottom of oceans as covid plastic waste. This settlement of PPE may end up on the beaches, or the sea beds as well. Hence, increased demand for PPE’s and plastic gloves have only added to the global environmental crisis. 

Recent research revealed that people dumped about 25,900 tons of Covid plastic waste into the oceans. For our imagination, this amount can fill up to 20,000 double-Decker buses. Besides, the management of such a large quantity of PPEs is a difficult task. Now the world’s waste management authorities are finding ways to dispose of them properly.  

According to a recent report, the amount of PPE disposal of this pandemic was 8.4 metric tonnes. And this was only related to the initial stages. Likewise, Yiming Peng and his colleagues said that;

Covid plastic waste has increased the already uncontrollable global plastic waste problem.

Marine Life And Covid-19 Plastic Waste

The disposal of Covid plastic in the ocean will not only cause floods. It will also travel many miles, and create a problem for marine life. Plastic contains many chemicals that are toxic to wildlife. The list of some toxic chemicals in plastics that can harm marine wildlife are as follows; 

  • Phthalates
  • Dioxins
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Lead
  • Cadmium 
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Ethylene dichloride

In March, a canal cleaner saw a fish entrapped in a medical glove. This incident happened in the Netherlands. But this has not been reported through a singular incident only. A lot of similar things happen around us. The PPEs have become a health hazard for marine life, and are toxic for terrestrial animals as well. Likewise, in Brazil, a similar incident happened. This is where a PPF-2 protection mask in the stomach of a dead penguin was discovered. This also highlights an alarming situation. Hence, these incidents suggest that the covid plastic waste will cause serious harm to marine ecosystem. 

Did You Know?

According to scientists and researchers of dissertation writing services, this accumulation of plastic waste is extremely harmful. If this continues at the present pace, the oceans will end up on beaches at the end of the century. 

In another study, the Chinese reported that Asians are largest producers of Covid plastic wastage. The following section highlights some prominent statistics for covid plastic waste production;

  1. The Asian countries produce about 46% of the total covid plastic waste.
  2. In addition, 24% of the world’s plastic waste comes from Europe.
  3. Total production of covid plastic waste from North, and South America accounts for only 22% of global plastic waste.
  4. Other studies suggest that about 87.4% of total waste comes from Asian hospitals. They added that the ratio of PPE’s domestic users is far less than that of hospital users.
  5. About 7.6% of the individuals’ total PPE ratio is approximately 4.7%. This accounts for packaging, and 0.3% for test kits. 
  6. The throwing of thousands of tonnes of gloves, masks, and testing kits in the oceans should be avoided. This is because they will impart long term environmental crises.
  7. According to a survey, this plastic waste has travelled up to 369 major rivers of the world.
  8. In Asian countries, the Shatt-al Arab in Iraq carries 5,200 tonnes of covid plastic waste. Then, it puts that waste into the Indus River. The Indus River originates in western Tibet. It carried 4,000 tons, while the Yangtze River in China carried 3,700 tons. In Europe, the highest amount of plastic waste (1,700 tons) caused by Covid was exported to sea via Danube. 
  9. According to another report, the world’s top ten rivers contained 73% of total covid plastic discharge. At the same time, top twenty rivers carried only 91%. Still, the top 100 drivers account for 99%. Apart from 11% of European watercourses, the Asian rivers add 73 % of ocean’s covid plastic wastes.
  10. Hence, by monitoring the major source of plastic discharge, one can find the hotspot river. We need to control the 73% contributors of plastic waste (the Indus River). In this way, the world can save itself from upcoming environmental challenges. 

Interesting Information About Face Mask-Wearing Trend During Covid:

In many regions of the world, the face mask-wearing practice has now become a legal requirement. But for many others, a few facts must be kept in mind. 

In February, the beach cleaners in Hong Kong reported the presence of 70 masks per 100m along seashores. While after just a weak, number of masks at the seashore increased up to 42%. Nowadays in the Mediterranean Sea, some people witness masks floating like jellyfish. Through this it is identified that these masks are life-threatening for aquatic life. Likewise, other studies reported that people use approximately 129 billion masks per month. In summary, every minute, people put about 3 million masks in the trash. Among them, a majority of masks contain disposable plastic microfibers. 

The environmentalists explained that we should dispose of such masks. Otherwise they will be more dangerous than the plastic bags. The improper recycling of such masks would be fatal for the environment as well. And not only that, it will also disturb the oceans, and freshwater resources. According to them, the masks contain microfibers. These are around 1-10 micrometres in thickness. Yet when these masks decompose in the air, they produce small-sized particles. These will further pollute the air. It can be said that due to the covid pandemic, the air quality has decreased. This will also contribute towards a variety of air-borne diseases in the future. 

What Should We Do To Control This Environmental Challenge?

On one side, we realised that PPEs are life saviours. But on the other hand, they are producing long term environmental effects. Within this context, let’s discuss some possible measures to manage this crisis;

  1. The hospital staff should discard covid plastics in separate containers.
  2. We should follow WHO’s guidelines for contaminated plastic waste management. This will help us in saving our environment from the global crisis.
  3. After getting stability through decrease in Covid cases, we need to take some more measures. The health department should work on producing bio-degradable PPEs that produce less harm to the environment.