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Coronavirus pandemic causes massive dump of single-use plastics into the ocean

Coronavirus pandemic causes massive dump of single-use plastics into the ocean

According to a team of Chinese and American researchers, the coronavirus pandemic is causing a massive dump of single-use plastics into the world’s oceans, primarily from hospitals.
Researchers from the Nanjing University School of Atmospheric Sciences in China and UC San Diego Scripp’s Institution of Oceanography in California said they expected to find an increased dump of one-use plastics from individuals: all the face-masks and gloves, and packaging that arrived when more people started ordering goods on-line during the pandemic.

But they found that most of the plastic waste finding its way into oceans, 25,000 tons of it, has come from hospitals, particularly in Asia, in places that were already struggling with how to handle waste management, even before the pandemic.

Researchers said they were “surprised” that the amount of medical waste from hospitals was substantially larger than the waste generated by individuals. And most was coming from Asian hospitals, “even though that’s not where most of the COVID-19 cases were,” according to study co-author Amina Schartup, at Scripps Oceanography.

Separately, one estimate found that about 1.56 million face masks entered the oceans in 2020.

The study paints a dire picture of plastic waste being dumped into the oceans. It estimates that eventually, most of that debris, about 70%, will wind up on beaches and most of the rest, on ocean sea beds.

The study’s authors are urging “better medical waste management in pandemic epicenters, especially in developing countries.”