The pandemic generates 8.4 million tons of single-use plastics
We all come to mind the amount of garbage that we have generated this time of the pandemic with the use of protection systems against covid-19. If the magnitude and destiny of these poorly managed plastic waste It was already a problem on a global scale, with a global health crisis like this one, it has only increased.
An international team of scientists, from the universities of Nanjing (China) and California San Diego (USA) has quantified using an ocean plastics measurement model called MITgcm the impact of the pandemic on discharges of this material.
According to their results, around 8.4 million tons of plastic waste associated with the pandemic in 193 countries as of August 23, 2021. Furthermore, the authors estimated that around 25,900 tonnes of waste were dumped into the oceans.
Around 8.4 million tons of plastic waste associated with the pandemic have been generated in 193 countries as of August 23, 2021
“For this research we considered hospital medical waste, packaging material from online purchases, virus test kits and personal protective equipment,” he tells SINC Yiming Peng, from Nanjing University and lead author of the study.
Most of these remains were hospital (73%) and most of the discharges came from Asia (72%). For this reason, scientists emphasize at work the need for greater demands on its management in developing countries.
“We found that Brazil, India and the US are the three countries with the most plastic waste due to the pandemic, while the small countries with the least population have the least, such as New Caledonia or Greenland,” adds the scientist.
Most of these remains were hospital (73%) and most of the discharges came from Asia (72%)
This study shows that although the demand for plastic personal protective equipment skyrocketed during the pandemic, treatment, disposal and recycling have not kept pace. “The world put the fight virus as a higher priority, ”says Peng.
Global generation of poorly managed plastics from different sources (hospital medical waste, test kits, PPE and online packages) attributable to the covid-19 pandemic. High and low performance scenarios are considered for each source. / PNAS
A garbage that will reach the beaches and ocean floors
The authors developed a model that simulates the fate of dumped plastic waste as it undergoes processes such as drift and fragmentation. According to the model, 71% of excess garbage in the oceans it will probably hit the beaches by the end of 2021.
“We took into account all the plastic waste since the start of the pandemic in December 2019. We find that associated plastic waste emissions account for 1.5% of the total, that is, those associated with other human activities, ”he continues.
Associated plastic waste emissions account for 1.5% of the total
It is estimated that, by the end of the century, almost all the plastic waste associated with the pandemic will end up on the seabed or on the beaches. According to the authors, the results underscore the need to improve plastic waste disposal and treatment measures and to increase awareness of the environmental impact of plastic waste associated with the pandemic.
“Many laws on single-use plastic (SUP) have been withdrawn or postponed. For example, a proposal for ban on plastic bags in the entire state of New York was put on hold as of May 2020. Thailand has seen a 30% growth in its production of these products. Similarly, in Europe EU legislatures have been asked to reverse the ban on a number of SUP articles. It is being a global challenge in terms of effective waste management and recycling ”, he warns.
Yanxu Zhang et al. “Plastic waste release caused by COVID-19 and its fate in the global ocean”. PNAS.
Rights: Creative Commons.