Written By : Maryam Habib
Apart from COVID-19 Pandemic struggle, World is now facing another issue that is plastic waste. Plastics used to make personal protective equipment, gloves, face masks, face covers, shoes covers, protective suits and goggles for doctors and healthcare workers are becoming a huge risk to environment as one time use of these products increase the amount of biomedical waste and increasing the risks to waste workers. This is in addition to the waste management challenges that cities are already facing with, especially of plastic waste.
The xenobiotic nature and lack of degradability of plastic materials which take hundreds of years to decompose make the current situation more critical for the vast levels of environmental pollution and risk to public health. Studies suggest that the disposal of these used plastic materials by using chemical and physical methods are very expensive and produces persistent organic pollutants (POP’s) known as furans and dioxins, which are reported to be toxic irritant products, resulting into infertility of soil, preventing degradation of the other normal substances, depletion of the underground water source and have proved to be dangerous to animal, human and eco-system. Thus, rapid biodegradation is the only eco-friendly process which can solve the problem faced by the plastic waste management efforts.
The production of plastics has increased over the past 50 years. In the year 2012, 288 million tons of plastic were generated around the world. Mostly it is produced for one time use only, like packaging materials, which is around 40 percent of the European plastic need in 2012. After disposal, plastic litter can be introduced into the marine environment by rivers, airborne transport, storm events, and tsunamis. One of the largest contributors to marine plastic litter is discarded products from recreational and commercial seafaring. Related environmental consequences include the entanglement of animals, mechanical impairments of swallowed plastics mistaken as food, accumulation of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and the transportation of harmful algae and invasive species. If there is no change occur in the waste management in present, then the sea will increase to 1 magnitude till 2025 according to the latest modelling data prediction.
Due to COVID-19 Pandemic countries postpones the plastic bags enforcement and neglect the biggest risk to environment and humans. So it is suggested that managing solid waste should be a higher priority for municipal authorities across the country as it is even more essential that municipal authorities follow and enforce standard guidelines and practices for the safe disposal of medical waste and also make public aware of this upcoming threat to their lives. So that everyone as a responsible citizen knows the importance of Reducing, Reusing and Recycling of waste to fight the problem together !