Today, it’s World Environment Day. And this one has got to be one of the most remarkable ever. Earth has been left shook by the coronavirus and while we’re starting to recover, global health is still in a very fragile state. The last few months, this pandemic has inflicted a huge amount of damage on health and economy all over the world. But one aspect people seem to forget, is the environmental damage this global crisis has caused.
The one thing every single image related to COVID-19 seems to have in common, is plastic. Gloves, masks, bags, … Almost each and every protective item has been made out of plastic. In desperate need of supplies, governments have rapidly increased the demand of plastic by great numbers. Countless businesses that usually have nothing to do with any of it, started selling mouth masks and gloves. At one point, every single factory in China that was able to produce any of these items, was doing so.
The health of every human being on this planet obviously comes first, but what we again failed to do, is to look at matters on the longer term. The increase in single-use plastics is understandable, but we have to start thinking about the health of our planet. Millions of tons of plastic garbage has been created solely for this pandemic and none of it will ever truly disappear.
The plastic industry has taken advantage of the uncertainty amongst politics to produce as they please. Important regulations concerning plastic have been scrapped during these challenging times, causing mass pollution. Activists are afraid that these circumstances could push back all kinds of plastic bans by a long time. Lobbying groups are taking advantage of the situation by putting plastic forward as the safe option, while it's not. Scientist have found out that the coronavirus is more stable on plastic than on cardboard, paper or metal, meaning it will take longer for the virus to go away on plastic.
Single-use plastic bags have again become the standard, being ‘safer’ than reusable ones.
The demand for bottled water and plastic packaging has risen tremendously. Recycling centers cannot cope with the huge amounts of trash, so less waste is being recycled. These trends will cause serious damage to our oceans and we’re already starting to see the effects. In developing countries waste aggregates are being mismanaged and are leaking into rivers and oceans.
The last few months have been a reminder of how much we produce and waste. The aftermath of this ‘plastic pandemic’ could be very significant for our environment if we don’t start limiting the use of plastic fast. If we don’t, the consequences will be far more severe than the problems we’re facing today.