Rising Tide of Plastic Waste – A Consequence of Pandemic

Covid-19 has led to another pandemic. The pandemic of plastic all around the world. It has led to the come back of single used plastic all over again. Although use of single used plastic did not completely end before Covid-19 but showed great deterioration.

Now that global society is prioritizing sterilized items above all else, more plastic gloves than ever end up in the trash after a trip to the grocery store, more plastic cutlery is disposed of after a single sitting, and more “insert single-use item here” is disregarded at first drop for fear that it is now contaminated. 

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Regardless, impact of our plastic consumption is generating concern.  In many places grocery stores have set temporary bans on the use of reusable bags, citing concern that the bags (as well as other reusable items) may contribute to the spread of Covid-19.

Already, the masks and gloves we mindlessly toss away, emblematic of the pandemic, have made their way into the environment. In the mere weeks since gloves and masks became commonplace, they have swiftly joined the tons of plastic already in the oceans. 

The irony of disposable plastic is that it survives forever. Plastics are indifferent to the pandemic – they will continue to accumulate in the oceans, where they will persist for centuries and even when ground down they become microplastics that both bioaccumulate and biomagnify in the marine food chain, which will in turn work their way into the human diet.

Situation In India

Activists and climate warriors across the country have noticed and written about streets and public places being littered with bio-medical, single-use plastics. Not only is this a threat to sanitation workers, who run the risk of contracting infections due to the waste, but it is also adding to the weight of plastic on the planet. Pradeep Sangwan, founder of Healing Himalayas, that works towards reducing plastic waste from hills, said, “Instead of food packets, now the streets are littered with used masks and gloves. While nature is enjoying temporary respite from our anthropogenic activities, an upsurge in medical waste is going to be a larger problem if not checked upon before things go completely back to normal.”

In a recent live session on Instagram, actresses Dia Mirza and Bhumi Pednekar, who have both been actively lending their voices to climate action, spoke about the rising crisis. “Since we started the Beat Plastic movement in 2018, it has been a long process of bringing behavioural changes in people. During this pandemic though, people find it safer to use single-use plastic as it can be disposed easily. Now, that is another thing that we will have to invest into – segregating and managing this waste – going further,” said Dia in the session. Similar statement was stated by Bhumi.

Solution To The Crisis

Steve Jobs one’s said “ If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.” And this problem has been detected early and the solution too has been found.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has issued proper guideline on segregation and treatment of medical waste. On our part, wearing reusable masks and keeping the plastic waste segregated at our home until recycling units become fully functional can help in the longer run. Individually, we can prevent littering public areas. As for the waste that’s already been discarded will be taken care off by authorities and several NGOs working in that direction.

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