• Thursday, Aug 13, 2020
  • Last Update : 02:56 pm

Plastic face masks, hand sanitizer bottles trigger pollution

  • Published at 09:40 am July 28th, 2020
Plastic pollution
Plastic pollution flowing into oceans to triple by 2040 Twitter

Streets, beaches, and oceans have been hit by a tidal wave of Covid-19 waste, including plastic face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer bottles, and food packaging

Coronavirus lockdowns around the world have led to a dramatic 5% drop in greenhouse gas emissions, according to UNCTAD estimates, but not all measures to contain the pandemic have had a positive impact on the environment.

Streets, beaches, and oceans have been hit by a tidal wave of Covid-19 waste, including plastic face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer bottles, and food packaging.

“Plastic pollution was already one of the greatest threats to our planet before the coronavirus outbreak,” said Pamela Coke-Hamilton, UNCTAD’s director of international trade. 

The sudden boom in the daily use of certain products to keep people safe and stop the disease is making things much worse, said Hamilton.

Developing countries have a big stake in the global plastics economy, according to UNCTAD. 

Their share of global plastics production jumped from 43.5% in 2009 to 58% in 2018.  And two out of three plastic manufacturing jobs are in the global south.

Global sales of disposable face masks alone are set to skyrocket from an estimated $800 million in 2019 to $166 billion in 2020, according to business consulting firm Grand View Research.

But this is only part of the story. Social distancing has also led to a flood of products delivered daily to homes – wrapped in a plethora of packaging – as people turn to online shopping and takeout services. The ensuing plastic waste is enormous.

For instance, during Singapore’s eight-week lockdown that eased on June 1, the island city-state’s 5.7 million residents discarded an additional 1,470 tons of plastic waste from takeout packaging and food delivery alone, according to a survey cited by The Los Angeles Times.

Historical data tells us that about 75% of coronavirus plastic will likely become waste clogging our landfills and floating in our seas.  And the costs are staggering.

The negative spillover effects of plastic waste on fisheries, tourism, and maritime transport, for example, add up to an estimated $40 billion each year, according to the UN Environment Programme.

Trade policy’s role overlooked

Plastic is an ingredient in countless products traded internationally every day -- from cars to toys to household appliances. Even goods that contain no plastic, such as apples or chocolate bars, are shipped in millions of tons of plastic packaging each year.

“Plastic production and consumption are a global system that has lots of trade dimensions,” Coke-Hamilton said.

“But the important role that global trade policies could play in the fight against plastic pollution has not garnered the attention it deserves,” she said while presenting an UNCTAD analysis of trade in plastics, sustainability, and development to the World Trade Organization’s trade and environment committee on July 3.

The number of trade measures mentioning plastics --such as technical regulations, subsidies, licenses, and bans -- reported to the WTO has increased annually by 28% over the past decade, showing a growing concern among WTO members.

“But the way countries have been using trade policy to fight plastic pollution has mostly been uncoordinated, which limits the effectiveness of their efforts," Coke-Hamilton said. “There are limits to what any country can achieve on its own.”

She said the 164 developing and developed economies that make up the WTO have the ability to write multilateral trade rules that could more effectively address the fundamental issues of the global plastics economy.

Less pollution, more jobs

Besides regulating the production and consumption of plastics, UNCTAD urged governments and businesses to identify non-fossil fuel plastic substitutes.

The list of non-toxic, biodegradable, or easily recyclable materials that could replace plastic includes many well-known materials, such as glass, ceramics, natural fibres, paper, cardboard, rice husk, natural rubber, and animal proteins.

As developing countries are key suppliers of many plastic substitutes, increased global demand could create new, greener trade and investment opportunities for them.

Developing nations supply, for example, 92% of the world’s jute, with the main suppliers being Bangladesh (74%) and India (9%). 

They also accounted for 94% of global natural rubber exports in 2019, with Thailand (31.5%), Indonesia (30%) and Côte d’Ivoire (8.5%) leading the pack.

“Since many plastics substitutes are also labour intensive, changes in production and consumption patterns could create new jobs,” Coke-Hamilton said.

58
57
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail