The Unexpected Environmental Consequences of COVID-19
The lockdown orders to battle the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in cleaner air throughout the world. However, it hasn’t been uniformly positive for the environment. Where COVID-19 has brought anxiety, worry, and social distancing, it has also brought piles and piles of trash and waste.
Businesses have been encouraging people to bring bags or containers from their homes. But with the pandemic, grocery stores and many other businesses have switched back to use plastic bags.
The piles of trash and waste are not just because of plastic grocery bags, it also includes disposable masks and gloves.
As more businesses reopen, there’s more trash coming.
Some real facts on disposable waste
- Restaurants are being encouraged to use disposable menus to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So a restaurant serving 60 customers a day (six days a week) will be distributing and throwing away approximately 1,500 disposable menus in a month.
- The health care workers’ need for personal protective equipment (PPE) to take of COVID-19 patients has skyrocketed, resulting in more disposable waste. In early March, the World Health Organization estimated that 89 million medical masks are needed every month, globally, for the COVID-19 response, along with 76 million exam gloves and 1.6 million goggles.
- According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, federal officials have sent out or are currently shipping 94.7 million N95 respirators, 149.2 million surgical masks, 14.3 million face shields, 44.6 million surgical gowns, and over 1 billion gloves to help deal with the pandemic.
Who Is Responsible For Producing the Most Waste?
According to Anne Germain, chief operating officer and senior vice president of regulatory affairs for the National Waste and Recycling Association, “Residences are more responsible for an overall increase in waste and trash since the pandemic began than healthcare providers.” Moreover, the amount of waste produced is continuously decreasing for restaurants, offices, and retails, but there is a spike of about 30% in residential waste. Even though people were working at home, they were generating a lot less paper than when they were in the office. The increase in the trash can be due to the “online shopping effect – with everyone ordering online, they get tons and tons of boxes.”
As far as, it is concern about virus-contaminated medical waste, there is a decrease in medical volume waste during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Selin Hoboy, vice president of government affairs and compliance at Stericycle, “During April 2020, medical waste pounds collected in North America were down 12%, compared to April 2019.” It is likely due to people postponing preventive care and elective surgeries, along with the temporary closure of smaller, independent health care practices. So where the need for supplies for COVID patients was increasing, it was probably offset by the lack of elective surgeries being done.
How to Handle Household COVID-19 Waste?
As the volume of disposable waste is increasing with each passing day, people should take the following precautions to handle the waste:
- For people who have a COVID-19 patient at home, should use a disposable bag to dump the infected waste. Wrap the household waste in the bag and put it in the trashcan or set it aside for a couple of days to let the virus die off.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after disposing of the trash.
- Ensure to disinfect the handles of your trash can to help protect the trash collectors. They likely won’t be touching the bags inside.
Want more updates on COVID-19, stay tuned to the Wise Rx Discount Card blog!