he world is going through a tough time of pandemic and the usage of various paraphernalia used for protection is a source of concern for the environment. The increased use of single use masks and gloves has led to serious environmental alarm. The Covid 19 pandemic has exacerbated global plastic pollution. A team of researchers from Nanjing University’s School of Atmospheric Sciences in China and UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography have published an estimate based on scientific modeling that 8 million tons of pandemic-related plastic was produced globally as of August. Moreover they reckon that about 26000 tons has ended up in aquatic bodies and bellies of sea creatures. The hospital waste tops the bulk, most of which is said to have been from Asia. If we go into the statistics, most of the Covid cases were found in North and South America but the plastic waste distribution tops in Asia. Plastics have several toxic constituents among which are phthalates, poly-fluorinated chemicals, bisphenol A (BPA), brominated flame retardants and antimony trioxide which can leach out to have adverse effects on environment and living beings.
Discarding face masks and the like stuff breaks down into smaller pieces under influence of abrasion, UV radiation or weathering which results in microplastic pollution. Greenhouse gas emissions related to the manufacture, transport and waste treatment of single-use face masks range from 14 to 33.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per tonne of masks, depending on the masks’ composition. However many European countries have chosen different strategies to curb it. They have advised their citizens to incinerate single-use face masks and the like. According to a survey in France, 5% people admitted throwing away their masks on public roads. Apart from humans, marine life and other terrestrial animals and birds get adversely affected. The researchers too have called for global public awareness regarding the same and emphasized on development of innovative technology for better tackling of plastic waste. Therefore we should assess the impact of single use masks and other stuff on the environment. Policy guidelines encouraging safer practices and creating awareness are the need of the hour.