It’s been almost a year since COVID-19 has been sweeping through the entire globe. In the beginning of 2020, many talked about a favorable, lockdown triggered environmental impact of the coronavirus. With the decrease of manufacturing and social activities for a moment it looked like marine lives returned to previously abandon places where traditionally significantly human are present.
'Covid waste': disposable masks and latex gloves turn up on seabed, source: Guardian News
However, in the efforts to keep the outbreak under control disposable face masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, protective medical suits, test kits, delivery packages etc have become normal part of our lives. In the fear of spreading the virus, many retailers have stopped accepting reusable cups, containers, or shopping bags, even though medical experts believe they cause no additional risks. All this has resulted in a tremendous increase in the human plastic footprint as plastic is a main component of most of these items
Discarded face masks and gloves have been found everywhere, the coast of the United States, France, Mainland China, Hong Kong etc.
Conservationists have warned that the pandemic could result in a surge of marine pollution and could increase the already high threat to marine lives. Face masks tend to float like jellyfishes then after a while sink to the seabed.
According to Greenpeace: “5,500 metric tonnes of face masks were produced within 3 months
According to estimates by Greenpeace Taiwan, during the apex of the pandemic, from early February to mid May, Taiwan produced and used roughly 1.3 billion surgical masks. Assuming each face mask weighs 4 grams, that’s 5,500 metric tonnes of general waste generated within a span of three months. To put that figure into perspective, each garbage truck is capable of transporting 5 tonnes of trash at a time, so Taiwan produced enough face masks over a three-month period to fill 1,100 garbage trucks. Furthermore, according to existing rules and regulations regarding the disposal of surgical face masks, used face masks are “unrecyclable” due to the fact that they may be contaminated and could potentially lead to indirect infection and viral transmission if they enter the recycle system.” (Source: Greenpeace)
Knowing that the social distancing and the new norms will likely remain part of our lives in the next few months, this rise in disposable plastic waste will probably continue increasing.
We have to be mindful about our health but also about other species and our oceans which are crucial to maintain the ecosystem's equilibrium.