The COVID-19 pandemic has had a number of influences on our everyday lives. It has changed the way we walk down the street and how much interest we pay on our homes. It's changed what we wear and what we carry in our handbags.
But, it has also had a very undesirable impact on the environment.
Not only has the use of plastic increased drastically on a worldwide basis, but single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) have also become a new form of pollution, which is commonly being referred to as coronavirus waste.
It has been no secret that this waste form is becoming more and more of a problem, as the internet is flooded with pictures and videos and articles about the increase of pollution on our seabeds are everywhere. Sanitizer bottles, disposable masks and latex gloves are some of the most popular findings.
What makes matters worse is that there are many countries who have put their recycling initiatives on hold—not to mention those that do not even have any!
There is an estimate that there are already 150 million tons circulating in the ocean, with an added eight million every year.
Of course, with all this waste ending up in the ocean and not being recycled, the increased use of plastic can be explained. This in itself is going to cause a separate problem on its own, as our environmental sustainability is not guaranteed.
You are urged to invest in non-disposable PPE such as cloth masks, face shields, refillable sanitizer bottles and even if you're unable to invest in either of these—it is not necessary to wear a new, single-use mask every day.
According to the CDC, masks may be used and reused until they are either moist from respirations or visibly frayed. As long as the masks are stored with the outer-layer facing inward, in a breathable container, it should be safe for reuse.
Of course, investing in a three-layered cloth mask would lower the risk of infection considerably, as well as the impact that it has on our environment.
It is our responsibility as humans to ensure that the Earth will remain habitable for future generations, but with the rate that these PPE seem to be piling up in the ocean, that might not be possible anymore.