COVID and the Environment
The pandemic. Yeah, we all know which one I’m talking about. The one gravely affecting our lives. It has affected humans, businesses, schools, but what else? Maybe you haven’t quite thought of it yet, but it’s affecting/has affected the environment as well!
Masks, yeah, let’s start off with those. You know, the light blue, one-time-use ones that we wear everyday? I’m sure you’ve seen them littered on the sidewalks and thrown on the ground. Well, the impact of masks hasn’t just been a problem in Canada. According to the South China Morning Post, medical waste has risen from 40 tons to 240 tons in Wuhan, China. Unfortunately, these masks have a layer of plastic, making them not-so degradable. Laurent Lombard from the Opération Mer Propre posts, “There risks being more masks than jellyfish,”
Gloves are also made of plastic. When these are littered, they’re staying around for a long time…fun. The plastic is going to become smaller and smaller, microplastics…nice. The scary thing is, it’s not only masks and gloves that are being littered; hand sanitizer bottles, vaccine syringes, and other coronavirus waste has also been found washed up on beaches. That’s not the end of the problem, unfortunately.
Next, online shopping. Pretty popular pre-pandemic, much more popular now. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all done it. We get bored, have more time to browse online and see a great sale on Amazon. Add to cart, check out, repeat. It’s normal, though, people are scared to leave their homes, resulting in most of their shopping getting delivered straight to their door. Before, the use of cardboard equated roughly 1 billion trees, that number is only going up with the pandemic. In fact, Amazon has been receiving so many additional packages, they announced that an extra 100,000 workers will be needed to sustain this demand.
On a positive note, you’ve probably heard of the crash in carbon emissions, wonderful, isn’t it. Less people are traveling, less industrial activity and less cars on the road. Many people are concerned that the government may divert their attention away from these greenhouse issues, causing more problems in the near future. Already, there have been multiple recycling programs that have been paused in the US. The government has been neglecting green issues, an example being cargo transportation declines. It sounds like a small issue, but it can lead to food being wasted, resulting in more greenhouse gases! This is because organic foods release these gases when they decay.
It’s about the perspectives. We see a couple masks thrown on the ground, maybe some gloves. Once all this waste builds up, our world is facing centuries of damage! Luckily, there are a few things we can do:
Wear reusable masks! You can buy them or make them yourself. They can help the environment, plus, they come in a bunch of cute designs!
Limit PPE (personal protective equipment) when it’s not necessary. For example, you don’t need to wear plastic gloves while on a trip to the grocery store. If you want to protect yourself, you can wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
Dispose masks the correct way. Some think that because one-time-use masks contain paper, they can go in the blue bin. That’s incorrect. You should dispose of your face masks in the black bin.
Inform others! A small, “Hey, your mask goes into the black bin,” can go quite a long way! Talking about this can spread more good information, helping the environment.
Overall, it’s really important to put health as your #1 priority, but when you can, help the environment out a little!