Letter: COVID-19, a health and environmental disaster
As safety measures and lockdown restrictions surge, rising patterns of production and consumption intensifies environmental devastation. Personal protective equipment among the general public, health care workers and service workers has increased waste production with an estimated monthly use of 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves necessary for the protection of citizens worldwide.
Contrary to environmental sustainability, there is an increasing preference for packaged groceries, online ordering and delivery services. Restaurants are pivoting towards take-out services with non-recyclable boxes, disposable cups and plastic utensils regressing from necessary measures to implement sustainable practices.
Global plastic packaging has been projected to increase by 40%, mainly due to the pandemic response. With a growing number of plastic waste and reductions in in waste recycling, the health crisis puts extreme pressure on waste management practices and strategy, leaving much of the waste to landfill. As we continue to diverge away from the goals of a circular economy, the prioritization of human health has led to a consequential delay in environmental ethic and policy.
As consumerism rises, the depletion of resources and pollution of terrestrial, aquatic and atmospheric ecosystems continues to place stress on the planet. The implication of COVID-19 on environmental well-being has been left largely undervalued with a growing ecological footprint.
We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history and must not discount our responsibility to nature and its future. As they are both undoubtedly connected, a balance between public health and environmental health is crucial for the survival of both. We need urgent and universal commitment to stricter regulations against plastic consumption and pollution. As a shared responsibility we must all concentrate our efforts to ensure a circular economy and fight for the right for environmental policy and practice.
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