The Effects of Covid-19 on Single Use Plastic Use

Hello KG Crew! We might be a little community here based out of San Diego (and spreading quickly across the nation :-)), but let me tell you – a little goes a long way! We are experiencing a major global environmental crisis & if we do not act soon, scientists warn us there will be extreme irreversible damage. There are countless factors that play into the crisis, such as polluters in the oil + gas industries, deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, poaching in Africa, hindered environmental diplomacy efforts & much more, but today we are going to focus on direct effects of plastic pollution on our oceanic ecosystems, pertaining particularly to the increased damage we’ve seen as a result of Covid-19.

Eight million metric tons of plastic waste enters the oceans every single year. & This is a statistic that existed pre-Covid-19. The global pandemic has triggered a global use of approximately 129 billion facemasks and 65 billion gloves each month. When these gloves and masks find their way into our oceans and rivers, they can be easily mistaken for jellyfish and similar creatures that many animals in the oceanic food chain feed on. They are also extremely dangerous for ocean life, and much wildlife alike, due to their elastic components that have entangled, and ultimately killed, countless animals since the start of the pandemic.

We are only talking about PEE so far, when it comes to the rapid rise in single-use plastic resulting from Covid-19, the story gets much worse. Single-use plastic use has surged a result of increased take-out during the pandemic. Restaurants and bars were forced to take most of their business to online and takeout orders. Think of how many plastic containers, plastic cups, and plastic utensils just one restaurant in San Diego would run through on a busy Friday night for takeout orders – now try to imagine that on a global scale in the middle of a pandemic. Outrageous. & That is just one example of an industry that was affected. On a personal level, I can think of so many ways plastic use was forced to change throughout this time. We are no longer permitted to bring reusable bags into grocery stores, I haven’t been allowed to drink coffee out of my reusable mugs at coffee shops, hand sanitizer… oh my gosh imagine the number of little plastic sanitizer bottles that have been used. Much of these single-use plastic items are not recyclable. 2020, at this pace, is projected to see 30% more waste than 2019.

The effects of Covid-19 don’t end there. The oil market collapsed which makes plastic cheaper to use than ever before. To be financially competitive in any marketplace, you find the most inexpensive ways to package your goods & right now it is extremely advantageous to package them with cheap plastic. And as more companies use plastic, less recycling systems around the world are operating due to budget strains. As states take on the brunt of Covid-19-related health and unemployment costs, many are suspending recycling services to save money. In both the West and the developing world, this plastic that is not recycled eventually makes it way into our rivers then to the oceans. So with the combined breakdown of recycling infrastructure and the Covid-19-related explosion of single-use plastic, we are facing a “plastic tsunami” gaining serious strength in our oceans.

I am going to attach some links with great information on this topic and the additional factors I mentioned above that play into the global crisis below.

National Geographic - Why Covid will End Up Harming the Environment - Another Side Effect of Covid-19: The Surge of Plastic Pollution

These articles will walk you through the problem in more detail and propose solutions to the problems that need to take place on a global scale. As far as our personal contributions, I encourage you all to limit your single use plastic usage. Wear reusable face masks, limit your take out orders at this time, drink coffee from home in reusable mugs, wash your hands with soap and water instead of using hand sanitizer. As I said before, a little goes a long way! I think it would be awesome as a KG community to simply be more conscious and cautious when it comes to making decisions that would involve single use plastics!



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