From gloves to bags, plastic use sees spike amid pandemic and it's worrying as most will end up in oceans
These wastes mostly end up in the oceans. We are already responsible for dumping the oceans with around 8 million tons of plastic trash every year
The pandemic is resulting in yet another crisis: plastic pollution.
Plastics are increasingly reinventing themselves now. From its use in gloves and face masks to other personal protective equipment (PPE), the demand is skyrocketing. Frontline workers and others are relying on them to protect themselves. People are also using more disposable plastic bags.
While they are necessary, experts have expressed concerns over how they are being discarded. With rules relaxed due to the pandemic, plastic wastes are likely to end up drains and oceans. "Right outside my house, there are discarded gloves and masks all over the neighborhood," John Hocevar, oceans campaign director at Greenpeace USA, told CNN.
These wastes mostly end up in the oceans. We are already responsible for dumping the oceans with around 8 million tons of plastic trash every year, according to one study.
Adopting reusable and disinfectable PPE could help lessen the damage, Hocevar said.
The rise in single-use plastic bags
And single-use plastics are making a comeback now, thanks to heightened concerns over contamination and safety. "But it is worrying that some members of the plastics industry are taking advantage of a climate of fear and uncertainty to actively suspend or roll back hard-won environmental measures to reduce plastic pollution. They are claiming “an abundance of caution” as the reason to reinstate widespread use of single-use plastic bags," Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, wrote in a blog post.
Even grocery stores --from San Francisco to New York City -- are reportedly barring consumers from bringing their reusable bags, fearing that they could increase the risk of infection. All of this has led to the rise of single-use plastic bags.
Besides, plastics provide the perfect environment for the new coronavirus. According to a study, the virus can last for up to 72 hours on plastics.
The pandemic could reverse some of the hard-won battles
California was the first state to forbid plastic bags. New York and hundreds of municipalities in the country either ban or fine its use in some way.
Experts are worried that these temporary modifications could become permanent. "We know that plastic pollution is a global problem -- it existed before the pandemic. (But) we've seen a lot of industry efforts to roll back some of the great progress that has been made," Nick Mallos of Ocean Conservancy told CNN. He added that we must be quite cautious about where we go, post-pandemic.
But experts are optimistic about bringing back the old regulations. "When we are on the other side of this crisis, we will get back to work building the systems that keep both humans and our ocean healthy. And we will get back to work on banning the bag as well," the non-profit group said.
"We are oversaturated daily with news around the pandemic ... there is so much information streaming to us daily that many of these types of messages can be missed," he says. "It may not seem like a significant action at the moment, but it will manifest in very dangerous ways down the road," Hocevar told CNN.