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The pandemic has had a devastating effect on all of us humans. Apart from humans, the flora and fauna have suffered too. Since the virus spreads very easily personal protective equipment (PPE) has played a critical role in protecting people, particularly frontline professionals who have been working around the clock to heal millions of patients.
Now due to this, there has been a serious increase in ocean plastic pollution raising some difficult issues for those of us who are always pushing for environmental preservation and sustainability: how will we manage the destructive effects of Covid-19-generated plastic waste?
Initially, the global lockdown during the pandemic resulted in a good environmental impact. Reduced air travel and road transportation resulted in a considerable reduction in daily CO2 emissions throughout the world. However, an insurmountable issue has formed as governments stockpile plastic items like personal protective equipment (PPEs) to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
A growing number of houses have been observed stockpiling foodstuffs, which also come in single-use plastic packaging. According to the World Health Organization, 89 million medical masks will be required each month globally as the coronavirus epidemic continues, along with 76 million examination gloves and 1.6 million goggles and face shields.
Since the coronavirus pandemic, billions of gloves and protective masks have been discarded on a worldwide scale every day. According to the World Wildlife Fund, if just 1% of the 1 billion plastic masks worn each month in nations are thrown inappropriately, it may lead to an accumulation of 10 million plastic masks in the environment, generating unparalleled pollution.
Now due to this increased pollution, whales, fish, seabirds, turtles, and many other species are ingesting plastic and dying in large numbers as a result. Many studies are being conducted to investigate the link between human health concerns and the consumption of microplastic-containing fish (bottles and other single-use items that have broken down). Plastic garbage has wreaked havoc on oceanic ecosystems all around the world.
To combat the spread of the virus, healthcare personnel are required to wear PPE, and the government has demanded that everyone wear a mask whenever they enter public locations. Now with this rule in place, few people chose cloth masks, but their usefulness is still debatable.
Since the consumption of these plastic products on a daily basis, their unregulated disposal has a negative influence on the environment. Hazardous PPE debris is stacking up in landfills, seabeds, and seas, contributing to current plastic pollution and endangering marine ecology.
The worldwide pandemic has revealed critical weaknesses in our structural system, one of which has been plastic pollution for a long time. Managing this unprecedented volume of plastic garbage would be a problem for governments, particularly for developing nations, which have a weak, uncontrolled waste management system that can further endanger the health of informal sector employees.
Due to the lack of an alternative, the present pandemic crisis has made it impossible for us to make a conscious choice. What we need is educated planning at many levels and timescales. During the recovery period, the government must prioritize ecological sustainability as a top priority in disaster preparedness. This entails investing in an effective waste management system as well as committing resources for research and development.
There is a need for environmental stability and good governance in order to fight the deteriorating impact COVID – 19 has on the environment. Some of the measures that need to be adopted are:
With the pandemic still prevalent in many parts of the world, even after the launch of the various vaccines, it is time we find ways to combat this problem of ocean plastic pollution. The problem is growing and won’t subside any time soon, and in case we don’t find measures and policies that use resources more effectively and eliminate the use of plastic, the ocean bodies will get so polluted that all the creatures living in it will eventually become endangered.