Pollution of Pandemic Hurting Environment


Hannah Nicholas, Reporter

When the pandemic hit, it felt like the whole world was flipped upside down. People strapped on masks and other protective gear to remain safe. However, these disposable face masks, gloves, face shields and other materials, often ended up lost or improperly thrown away. Many have  littered the ground, waterways, and oceans, putting a variety of different species at risk. In addition to the impact on humans, COVID-19 has certainly affected the environment.

Many people were reliant on online shopping for everything from ordering groceries to clothes to cleaning supplies. This brought a huge dependence on pre-packaged goods which created a growing amount of trash because everything had to be packaged individually.

The restaurants that survived were forced to only serve takeout, which caused an increasing amount of plastic, styrofoam takeout boxes and other single-use items. Many of these were often disposed of improperly, ultimately contaminating various waterways and oceans. 

“I think the environment was kind of ruined because of the extra masks and protection things that were thrown away and discarded in the wrong ways. My consumption of single-use products skyrocketed due to the pandemic because I was not able to sit down and eat a full meal at a restaurant so I would need to get takeout and other prepackaged things,” explained Dominic Scafani, a freshman at NHS. 

At the start of the pandemic, people looked to local restaurants for support. This sudden switch to takeout bags, plastic utensils and boxes created an influx of new waste. This style of consumption unintentionally has been contributing to the growing amount of waste caused by single-use plastics.

According to an article from Scientific Direct, the numbers of disposed pandemic-related items are staggering.

“The amount of plastic waste generated worldwide since the outbreak is estimated at 1.6 million tons/day. We estimate that approximately 3.4 billion single-use face masks/face shields are discarded daily as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, globally,” Scientific Direct reported.

The oceans have certainly been impacted negatively as well.

“We’ve added 28,000 tons of pandemic-related waste since the start of this. With a whopping 269,000 tons already living in our ocean. This wasn’t a number we are looking to add to. To put 269,000 tons into perspective, it’s roughly 38,000 African Elephants,” stated Water Channel Canada.

Not only is the amount of waste increasing in the environment due to the pandemic, but the time it takes for these products to decompose can take anywhere from 5 to 1,000-plus years. During the process, the toxic chemicals used to make these items can be released into the water and/or soil, not only harming the environment, but also disrupting the natural ecosystem of so many species. 

As people continue to add to the growing amount of pollution caused by the pandemic, it is important to be aware of the possible environmental effects that can come from the items we use everyday. Using reusable masks could be beneficial in the long run. 

Sadly, the destruction of COVID goes way beyond the hospitals.