CHICAGO, United States – A team of Chinese and American researchers have concluded that the coronavirus pandemic is driving a big dump of one-use plastics into the earth’s oceans, coming mainly from hospitals.
Researchers from the Nanjing University School of Atmospheric Sciences in China and UC San Diego Scripps 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 online during the pandemic.
But they found that most of the plastic waste finding its way into oceans, 25,000 tons of it, 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 were coming from Asian hospitals, “even though that’s not where most of the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) 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 percent, will wind up on beaches and most of the rest, on ocean sea beds.
And there are already reports of animals trapped by, or ingesting, plastic medical equipment like gloves, and face masks.
The study’s authors are urging “better medical waste management in pandemic epicenters, especially in developing countries.” (Anadolu)