Energy & Environment

25K tons of pandemic-related plastic waste now in the ocean: research

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A recent study found that more than 25,000 tons of pandemic-related plastic waste leaked into the ocean while 8 million tons of plastic waste were created globally.

Personal protective equipment like masks and gloves from the COVID-19 pandemic were mismanaged as there was too much waste for countries to properly process the materials, according to a study entitled “Plastic waste release caused by COVID-19 and its fate in the global ocean” published in the online journal PNAS. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for single-use plastics that intensifies pressure on an already out-of-control global plastic waste problem,” the study said. “While it is suspected to be large, the magnitude and fate of this pandemic-associated mismanaged plastic waste are unknown.”

The research also noted that most of the plastic was largely the result of medical waste from hospitals as opposed to from personal protection equipment and online-shopping packaging.

“The released plastics can be transported over long distances in the ocean, encounter marine wildlife, and potentially lead to injury or even death,” the study added of the harmful nature of so much plastic infiltrating the ocean. 

The researchers also called for “better medical waste management in pandemic epicenters, especially in developing countries.”

Another report published last month indicated that the U.S. plastics industry’s contribution to climate change was on track to pass coal by 2030 in terms of negative environmental impact.

Tags ocean pollution plastic waste
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