Rise in Covid-related Plastic Pollution: A way out
The Covid-19 has an impact on every aspect of our life. It has shown us many scenarios and hazards to human society. It attacked loop-holes in human-living things co-existing system of nature that was first destroyed by us “human”. Covid-19 forced lockdown and the result was clean air, less noise pollution, less industrial waste, no traffic on roads, nurturing of wildlife.
But the impact on ocean life and the water system on earth is having a hard time with extra plastic waste due to mask, PPE kit, surgical waste, limited waste disposal due to the heavy cost of covid management, no disposal at all in developing countries and many more. The big word ‘plastic’ with ready-to-use quality has expanded its coverage in the food industry, online shopping industry, and many other markets.
The work-from-home culture and its easy to home delivery techniques due to physical market closure increased the use of single-use plastic. Less than 6o gram per square meter (GSM) type of plastic is in all-time high usage since 2020. The single-use plastic is banned in India under the rule of Plastic Waste Management (Amendment) Rules, 2021 which is updated in March 2021 due to expanded use and poor disposal management.
More than eight million metric tons of plastic are entering the ocean every year, but due to Covid-19, it has increased by almost 20% An estimated global use of 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves every month is added to the above total sum of disposal to the ocean. Due to the crash of oil prices in the global market which is a raw material for plastic products is helping to use more plastic at low pieces and so the wastage is also increasing at a rapid rate. This has also added to the economic crisis and the increase in takeout at a cheap rate which are helping to increase the use of single-use plastic.
But the worst part is much single-use plastic is not recyclable and so direct goes into the dump. The use of single-use plastic is increased by 30% in 2020 as compared to 2019. The cost of a recycling system is added stress to the municipality as budgets are mostly spent on Covid Relief Funds by the government worldwide. In the case of developing countries, the waste disposal system is present at every minute level and so we cannot complain about them.
Fifteen million waste pickers in the developing world pick up plastic off the streets, parks, public spaces, out of massive open landfills, and off beaches. In recent months, some waste-picking communities have been forced to pick up twice as much plastic as they once did for the same amount by the government, including bio-hazardous material. In some cases, this discourages them from picking up plastic at all, as other materials are more valuable and easier to sell in markets as well.
The Way Out…
First of all, we need to take care of the waste-picker because they are the important part of this puzzle and without them, the collection for recycling system is lost in a country like ours. The Amendment mentioned above must be enforced as early as possible because the cost of waste management with minimum available facilities is high. The Amendment is phase-out in three parts;
First, as of September 30, 2021, non-woven plastic carry bags (recycled plastic) must be at least 60 GSM or 240 microns thick. Compostable plastic carry bags would be exempted from all sorts of markets.
Second, starting on January 1, 2022, Government is proposing to ban the manufacture, import, stocking, distribution, sale, and use of certain single-use plastic commodities, including candy sticks and ice-cream sticks.
Third, as of July 1, 2022, Government would ban single-use plastic commodities that would be prohibited after this date include the following food-contact articles: plates, cups, glasses, cutlery, straws, trays, stirrers, and wrapping films around sweet boxes. This also includes non-food contact items which are less than 100 microns facilities is thick.
This is what Government will do, but as an habitant of Earth, we can do our part by minimal use of single-use plastic such as not accepting carry-bag given by shop-keepers, whenever we go out always carry our cotton bag and when we go for tracking or picnic we can use paper bags for our mess that we do after eating. We can avoid throwing rappers, gums, etc on street and instead tuck them in the pocket and throw in dust-bins nearby or directly at our home. Because
“Only we humans make waste that nature can’t digest.”
– Charles Moore