Articles, COVID-19, Environment, Staying Healthy

Sustainability Post-Pandemic

The Pandemic has been difficult for everybody in almost every way. We’ve all done everything we can to stay safe, help keep others safe, and to educate ourselves in order to stop COVID-19. A downside to all of our safety precautions, though, has been in how we treat the environment.

The Statistics

According to scientists in the article “COVID pollution: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on global plastic waste footprint”, millions of single-use plastics (such as masks, gloves, aprons, and bottles of sanitizers) have been discarded into the environment and “could cause a surge in plastics washing up the ocean coastlines and littering the seabed”.

The article says “The amount of plastic wastes generated worldwide since the outbreak is estimated at 1.6 million tonnes/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. Our comprehensive data analysis does indicate that COVID-19 will reverse the momentum of years-long global battle to reduce plastic waste pollution.”

That’s scary. 

But masks, gloves, and sanitizing products aren’t the only problem. More common products from Pre-Pandemic life like reusable bags and to-go containers from restaurants have also impacted our environment. 

A CNBC article by Emma Newburger and Amelia Lucas states that “Before the start of the outbreak, cities and states were making some progress on banning plastic bags, shifting away from single-use plastic — which ends up sitting in the ocean — to paper or reusable products. But now, cities and states have delayed or rolled back those bans on plastic bags in fear that reusable products will spread disease. Many retailers are banning customers from bringing reusable bags. Municipalities are scaling back recycling operations due to health concerns.”

The article goes on to talk about how a lot of restaurants stopped using reusable packaging when the Pandemic hit. Many establishments don’t have the infrastructure for reusable and compostable take-out container options. Promotion of other sustainable methods like reusable mugs stopped due to fears of reusable options being “dirty” and “dangerous”.

What You Can Do

Being mindful is the first step. As we’re coming out of the Pandemic, hopefully society will begin to shift back into more environmentally friendly options. Until then,  products like cloth masks that can be washed, reusable straws, water bottles, and grocery bags (in places that will allow them) are a great way to start. 

Also, make sure to recycle whenever possible and pick up excess trash if you see it. If there are plastic rings around products like sodas your family buys, cut the rings before disposing of the plastic so that animals don’t get trapped in between them. Encourage not eating out as much to eliminate waste from to-go containers (or dining in if you’re comfortable). 

These are little steps but they can make a huge impact. Though many of you probably already know these things, I think we all need a reminder now and then. With the amount of waste that has accumulated during the Pandemic, maybe that reminder is needed sooner rather than later. I know I didn’t even realize how wasteful I had been in trying to follow safety precautions until I saw the data. 

And now that we know, let’s help our society get back on track. Time to go save the world!

Check out more articles about the environment by GirlSpring contributors!


Skylar Summers is a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She's passionate about empowering women through storytelling, writing, and creating visual media. To learn more about Skylar, visit her Instagram page @skylarsummers20 and watch her short films on her website (linked on her Instagram page)!

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