The rise in coronavirus cases adding up with the amount of people locked inside is creating a new plastic wave
It would seem like the onset of a global pandemic has eased off everyone’s minds from problems that were leading to our doom way before the first case of Covid-19 appeared. It is not wrong to say either that a few of these existing problems may have caused all the death and chaos that was started by this virus. From increasing wealth inequality to raging environmental problems, what we are going through is the consequence of having ignored these problems for years.
Earlier this week the United Nations published a paper in which the UN Chief Antonio Guterres claimed: “Humans are waging a suicidal war on nature”. Perhaps to make things crystal clear the UNCTAD published a report which estimated about 75% of the waste created due to the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns will remain in our surroundings drifting away on your nearest roads of clogging up the biggest drains.
An important thing to remember is that this is no ordinary waste but Bio-Medical waste. Such waste has to be disposed of carefully but due to the mass use of these products ensuring that happens is next to impossible. On a national level our Central Pollution Control Board estimated in a report that about 18000 Tonnes of Bio-Medical waste (including masks, sanitizer etc) had been generated since lockdown restrictions began easing in June to September.
75% of all plastic waste created during the pandemic will never be recycled
You may wonder how this affects you or anyone around you. Think of these 18000 tonnes of garbage as literal Corona-active bombs flying around. How uncommon is it to spot one of these plastic masks just lying on the road while you go out for a morning walk? The mass use and immediate disposal of these products not only threaten the well-being of humans but also the future availability of these products in the scenario that such a disease was to ever spread again.
Referring back to the introduction, the coronavirus is just one of the new ways non-disposable plastic has entered our eco-system. In a metro like Mumbai since late 2019, laws regarding single-use plastic bags were a point of debate every night. With fines rising up to 25000 on your first offense people certainly tried to avoid carrying plastic, even if it was out of fear of losing money rather than losing your planet.
Since the onset of the pandemic, there has been the largest spike in the amount of things ordered through the internet. These include groceries, luxury purchases, essential commodities and most commonly food. Whether it be an online vendor or a local fast food shop owner, both parties are more comfortable offering their customers with single use plastic bags, despite the laws regarding the matter staying the same. Why? Well the bigger problems overshadow all existing problems.
Though it may seem that both these problems combined make it too difficult a problem for anyone to solve, it most certainly is not. We do not have a comprehensive plan to dispose all the bio-medical plastic waste, but what we do have and has been with us for decades is the solution to manage non-bio-medical plastic waste. Recycling.
Recycling leads to re-use and re-use leads to reduction. Hence the R’s. One notable organization that works at the forefront to make this option available for a wider sect of the population is the Indian Pollution Control Association It is the first CPCB Registered NGO that dabbles in plastic waste management. They work with rag-pickers, scrap material dealers, and garbage collectors who are at the forefront of combatting the issue of pollution along with a constant effort to educate their children.