The ongoing pandemic has increased the public sufferings leading to the state of economic despondency and many other issues. As a result, the Covid-19 woes will be multiplied when the environment is likely to meet with the devastation caused by plastic pollution. Therefore, it is apparent to contemplate that the risk of infection will grow with more pollution to the environment.
In this unprecedented pandemic, we have to use surgical masks, plastic gloves, protective equipment, and bottles of hand sanitisers to shield ourselves from being attacked with the deadly virus. At the same time, the use of items like facial tissue, oxygen masks, saline bags, disposable syringes and needles, among others have increased at the hospitals.
On top of that, the use of single-use plastic cups used for serving coffee and tea have increased drastically in the last few months as people are afraid to drink from traditional ceramic cups. This may be termed as the "new normal" of the tea stalls. Besides, a recent study confirmed that 17 billion paper cups are used every year across the globe for serving tea and coffee.
It was estimated that the use of plastic produces will be doubled during the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO), more than 15000 tons of plastic waste including PPE and other hazardous medical waste is being generated monthly across the country but the management of these wastes are not satisfactory.
It is quite alarming that people are not bothered about their discarded plastic wastes which are often found on the streets, parks, sidewalks and roads posing a serious health threat to humans and other living species.
Even in the open garbage cans, animals such as dogs and cats are constantly found to search their foods from there, which have huge chance to spread the infection not only in them but also other living beings in the community.
It is an irony that we are trying to save ourselves using these protective gears and on the other hand, we are endangering others with our foolish acts.
Experts claimed that the huge amount of plastic waste can infect the environment and many other contagious viruses including HIV and Hepatitis (B and C) can easily be generated from such wastes along with Covid-19.
Besides, plastic pollution also harms animals and plants through toxicities. Environmentalists claimed that plastic waste can exist in the soil for hundreds or even thousands of years. As it is not biodegradable, it is getting mixed with the food grains and consequently, entering humans and animals body accelerating their premature death.
Also, once these pollutants get into the water, they affect marine life causing thousands of marine species to die each year. In recent times we saw waterlogging in the big cities due to the expansion of plastic trash blockading drainage systems frequently.
A study revealed that global plastic waste by 2050 is likely to contribute to 15 percent of greenhouse gas emission. which is equal to the current 15 percent for the emissions of all of the world's forms of transportation that is truly more than alarming in case of survival in the world.
In line with other countries to manage the plastic waste, Bangladesh is more vulnerable as a study conducted by Department of Environment revealed that 36 percent of the plastic waste was recycled in the informal sector, 39 percent dumped in landfills and the rest leaked to the environment.
In the wake of Covid-19, the severity of plastic pollution seems to remain uncontrolled concerning proper management as the huge amount of plastic is not only discarded from the hospitals but also our homes. This needs to be dealt with even though it is hard to manage the waste unless there are proper cooperation and awareness in this regard.
A couple of NGOs are working for disposing of the plastic waste in this unprecedented time but their efforts are not successful due to many limitations.
Creating a massive awareness among the people may be the great panacea along with taking the outcome-based initiatives to bring out a proper accomplishment of plastic waste.
Alaul Alam teaches at Prime University. He can be reached at: email@example.com.