After the hit of the pandemic in December 2019, the waste from plastic use increased because of the use of masks and gloves. Some conservationists found that the consequences of coronavirus led to a lot of disposable masks, latex gloves, and sanitizer bottles floating in the ocean. “In the years leading up to the pandemic, environmentalists had warned of the threat posed to oceans and marine life by skyrocketing plastic pollution. As much as 13 million tonnes of plastic goes into oceans each year, according to a 2018 estimate by UN Environment. The Mediterranean sees 570,000 tonnes of plastic flow into it annually – an amount the WWF has described as equal to dumping 33,800 plastic bottles every minute into the sea.”
The figures, unfortunately, are growing significantly because of all countries struggling with the pandemic. According to the statement by Gary Stokes from OceansAsia, “On a beach about 100 meters long, we found about 70 [masks]. One week later, another 30 masks had washed up. And that’s on an uninhabited island in the middle of nowhere.”
As much as the oceans are already full of plastics and the planet is choking by this kind of pollution, COVID-19 has certainly contributed much more waste to the waters with the use of masks, gloves, and, of course, plastic utensils and packages from the restaurants that only provided take-outs. Could this be handled better? Certainly. Because we share this planet with other creatures and because other living beings, i.e. animals, depend on us, it is crucial to have a balanced approach of our activities towards animals and sustainable use of any items that could lead to the destruction of the ecosystem and the reduction of the population of certain animals.
Plastics do not kill or infect just aquatic animals but also land mammals. While the use of plastics cannot be completely banned, it can certainly be reduced to save animals and the environment. For example, Abu Dhabi, after a massive death of camels due to plastic consumption, decided to plan to ban plastic bags, beverage cups and lids, plastic cutlery, straws, stirrers, and food containers. And there are other ways how each of us can help reduce plastic waste that end up in the oceans or on land.
Reduce the use of single-use plastic items, such as plastic bags, water bottles, straws, containers, utensils, etc. These can be replaced by the same but reusable items (grocery bags, bottles/coffee cups).
If you are just taking a stroll and see plastic bottles or other plastic items, take them and you will contribute to saving our animals and the environment. You can also organize a cleanup in your local area, especially on the beach.
Support local or regional bans or limited use on the use of plastics by signing a petition or in any other ways participating/contributing to such ban.
Share information on your social media pages about the threats of plastic waste to our planet. You can also check out documentaries on plastic waste, such as “A Plastic Ocean,” “Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic,” “Bag It,” “Addicted to Plastic,” or “Garbage Island.”
There are a lot of organizations that work on the issue of plastic pollution. Express your interest, donate, or volunteer with these organizations to help save millions of lives and the only place to live.