Since the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, there have been various concerns and debates about how world sustainability goals were going to be affected. The world is dealing with the crisis by increasing their production of masks, protective gears, shields, makeshift cardboard partitions, medical equipment and other material important for public sanitation. But these are for one-time usage only.
Every day we are producing tonnes and tonnes of non-recyclable waste that is biologically hazardous and non-degradable. Much of this waste from teh past week weeks has ended up in the ocean or in a landfill. Plastic is a polluter as much as it a protector in this dystopian world that we are experiencing today.
Another deeply saddening news is that even with local municipality not clearly prohibiting recycling activities many workers in the sanitation and the recycling industry have refused to continue working. This is a valid decision given the highly contagious nature of COIVD-19. Those on the frontlines of this crisis were daily waster haulers that go from home to home collecting garbage. Most of them weren’t provided with any safety gears initially and weren’t made aware of the dangers of carrying or contacting the disease.
Apart from teh workers officially employed in these departments, ragpickers, plastic collectors and other informal waste-collectors of the poorer sections of our society have also pulled back from this occupation. They have the capability to collect up to one million tonnes of plastic, paper and electronic waste, put of which 70% is generally recycled. Their added inactivity will definitely form the bedrock of long-term land, water and air pollution that will follow in the post-pandemic era.
Another general misconception that has spread around the nation is that viruses have shorter lives on plastics as compared to paper, cardboard and other fabrics. But this is an extremely toxic myth. According to a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine, viruses tend to live for up to 72 hours on plastics as compared to the shorter 24 hours on fabrics, cardboard and paper. So if you have shelved your jute and cotton market bags for single-use you have been a victim of all the mal-intended information that has been spreading like rapid fire on social media like Whatsapp.
So what do we, as ordinary citizens, do? Although we too are scared for the well-being of our family and ourselves, we can go about our safety in an eco-friendly manner as well. It’s important that we stop in our tracks right now and reconsider our actions. Instead of opting for single-use plastic masks and covers, opt for more sustainable alternatives that are available in fabrics or cardboards. These can easily be disinfected at home and re-used. Speak to your local governing bodies and inform them about the ills of growing usage of single-use plastic. Buy from wholesale shops that support local farmers and businesses as they produce significantly less amount of non-biodegradable waste.