Covid waste

Planet's call for help!

Words by Shruti Singh

covid waste

The waste management crisis has been a serious issue that we have struggled to deal with, even in a world before the global pandemic. Waste disposal has devastating impacts on the environment. The waste buried in landfills includes a lot of synthetic and plastic waste which takes thousands of years to decompose and the process emits methane gas into the environment which contributes to global warming. Incinerating waste causes air pollution as it releases toxic substances such as dioxins into the environment. Looking at the problem in terms of the combined effects of population growth and overconsumption helps in imagining the bigger picture. Discarding items leads to the wastage of energy and resources that were put into making an item.

We often forget to think in terms of the damage our existence causes to the ecosystem. And we have done it once again as the world struggles to fight the global pandemic. Amidst these struggling days, we have yet again ignored how our fight against the novel pandemic has affected the environment.

covid waste

Over the last few months, environmentalists have shown their concern over the grave issue of pollution caused by PPE items (masks, gloves, and plastic sanitizer bottles). With the excessive consumption of these items, proper disposal of the waste generated remains to be a matter of great concern. Other than spotting thousands of such masks littering the land, such waste has now found its way into the sea too. Most of these PPE items are made of plastic. When such plastic finds its way into the sea, it starts getting covered with algae and bacteria over time. This algae-covered plastic can be easily mistaken for food by marine life and cause serious damage to their health.

Covid wasteSo what can be done about it?

We need to start thinking in terms of reducing waste. Purchasing single-use plastic items should be discouraged. Most of the plastic waste in the environment comprises plastic bags, plastic bottles, food packaging, straws, synthetic clothes and even face masks are now on the list.

Masks have become a necessity for people all over the world. But imagine the amount of waste generated when a population of 7.8 billion people constantly uses face masks. Here are some things you can do to avoid unnecessary waste:

  • Carry a cloth bag to avoid disposable plastic bags while shopping.
  • Using reusable and washable face masks can be advantageous as it will save money and generate less waste. Hemp masks have numerous advantages as they are durable, washable, and natural.
  • Washing hands gives better protection than wearing gloves while stepping outside of the home.
  • Encourage organic consumption and sustainable clothing alternatives like organic cotton, hemp, and silk over synthetic clothing.
  • Conscious consumerism. Be informed about what you buy and its impact on the environment.
  • Upcycle whatever you can. For example, glass jars, bottles, and clothes can be used to make something new.
  • Recycle as much as possible and support establishments that do the same.



Image courtesy: Opération Mer Propre and National Maritime Foundation. 

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