Many people use synthetic fiber masks that are meant to be thrown out after just a few uses instead of washable cloth masks that can be used over and over. Mindlessly discarded, you see masks and gloves lying on the ground when you walk around a community or in a parking lot at the store. Litter has always been an issue but during a pandemic litter has increased exponentially. This careless action is a potential health hazard of COVID-19 germs being transmitted, though potentially small, it is still a risk.
“Recent visitors have left mounds of rubbish at public spaces and beauty spots across the UK and beyond. What’s driving this behaviour?” In Why litter is surging as lockdowns ease, they discuss some of the reasons people are being so careless and why are they behaving in such a disgraceful manner.
“Research suggests that littering can be challenging to eradicate in the best of times – and these clearly aren’t the best of times. So what is it about current circumstances that’s driving this surge, and is there anything we can do to contain the problem?”
For the average person, there really isn’t a reason to have a single-use mask and gloves do not protect from the virus.
When the pandemic started and scientists didn’t know exactly how the disease spread, there was concern about using reusable products, such as, shopping bags. What we have since learned is COVID-19 can be effectively dealt with hot water and soap. Reusable products, like shopping bags, are designed to be cleaned. The hardest part of reusable products is training the public to be responsible and dedicated with proper cleaning and hygiene.
Read more from health experts – Health Expert Statement Addressing Safety of Reusables andCOVID-19.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has triggered a discussion of how to ensure the safety of reusable systems in a public health crisis. Based on the best available science and guidance from public health professionals, it is clear that reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene.
According to Ocean Conservatory, “8 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments.” Add this to the projected 40% increase in plastics production globally in the next 10 years on top of what we have generated during the pandemic and we have a bigger plastic hole to dig ourselves out of. – by by Amber Leventry in the article The Pandemic Has Produced A New Kind of Litter Problem.
According to Earth.org there is a huge surge in plastic pollution. Plastic pollution has been at the top of environmentalists agenda for years and COVID-19, while increasing the plastic pollution, is also pushing plastic pollution make into the spotlight.
Short-term solutions include fines, labels on disposable items, making information on littering and how to recycle more available to the public and potentially designing more eye-catching and ‘fun’ refuse bins to encourage interaction.
Given that surgical masks are supposed to be worn for no longer than one day, their disposal- along with that of empty hand sanitizer bottles and soiled tissue papers- is leading to a massive trail of clinical waste in the environment. – Covid-19: Unmasking the Environmental Impact by Earth.org
We have not seen anything like this in over hundred years, if ever. Covid-19 is wreaking havoc wherever it goes. Our medical systems and supplies have been pushed beyond their limits, and so has the waste. Unfortunately, the capacity to properly deal with the increase in medical waste is not something a lot of areas are prepared for.
With the pandemic is spreading to other parts of the globe rapidly, the spotlight will soon be on medical waste treatment management around the world and how effective their measures are. While health institutions and private waste management companies in some countries are already stepping up their corona virus-specific decontamination services, it is also equally important for governments to step up and find solutions quickly against the environmental impact of COVID-19. At the same time, it is also each individual’s responsibility to follow the necessary guidelines while disposing of their masks and other medical gear. After all, it is only through mutual empathy and goodwill that we will see the world emerge stronger from this global pandemic. – Earth.org
What will come of this, is anyone’s guess. But the hope is that most nations will learn from this and truly understand the importance of change and adopt improvements to the environment, climate change, while helping their citizens understand the importance of these changes and educate them on what their role is so there is a future for all.