COVID pollution: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on global plastic waste footprint
Plastic products have played significant roles in protecting people during the COVID-19 pandemic. The widespread use of personal protective gear created a massive disruption in the supply chain and waste disposal system. Millions of discarded single-use plastics (masks, gloves, aprons, and bottles of sanitizers) have been added to the terrestrial environment and could cause a surge in plastics washing up the ocean coastlines and littering the seabed. This paper attempts to assess the environmental footprints of the global plastic wastes generated during COVID-19 and analyze the potential impacts associated with plastic pollution. The amount of plastic wastes generated worldwide since the outbreak is estimated at 1.6 million tonnes/day. We estimate that approximately 3.4 billion single-use facemasks/face shields are discarded daily as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, globally. Our comprehensive data analysis does indicate that COVID-19 will reverse the momentum of years-long global battle to reduce plastic waste pollution. As governments are looking to turbo-charge the economy by supporting businesses weather the pandemic, there is an opportunity to rebuild new industries that can innovate new reusable or non-plastic PPEs. The unanticipated occurrence of a pandemic of this scale has resulted in unmanageable levels of biomedical plastic wastes. This expert insight attempts to raise awareness for the adoption of dynamic waste management strategies targeted at reducing environmental contamination by plastics generated during the COVID-19 pandemic.