COVID-19: global greenhouse gas emissions have decreased, but pollution with masks and gloves has increased

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a sharp increase in environmental pollution from disposable products, including face masks, protective gloves, and bottles of disinfectant liquids. This is stated in a report published by the UN conference on trade and development (UNCTAD).

According to experts, as a result of restrictive measures taken in connection with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by up to 5%, but “not all measures aimed at countering the coronavirus have had a positive effect on the environment.”

“Our streets, beaches, and oceans have been affected by a tsunami of waste, including plastic face masks, gloves, disinfectant bottles, and food packaging,” the report said.

According to Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Director of the international trade department at UNCTAD, plastic pollution was already a significant threat to the planet even before the coronavirus outbreak. “The sudden surge in daily consumption of products designed to ensure people’s safety and stop the disease has significantly worsened the situation,” she added.

According to calculations by the consulting company Grand View Research, global sales of disposable masks alone increased from $ 800 million in 2019 to $ 166 billion this year.

Social distancing, the report notes, has also led to an increase in home deliveries of goods and products wrapped in plastic packaging. According to UNCTAD estimates, about 75% of the plastic produced by the pandemic is likely to become waste, clogging landfills and seas. At the same time, according to the UN environment program, the adverse side effects of plastic waste, in particular, on fishing, tourism, and marine transport, amount to $ 40 billion per year.

UNCTAD asked governments to stop using plastic or switch to non-toxic and biodegradable plastic substitutes such as glass, ceramics, natural fibers, paper, cardboard, rice husks, natural rubber, and animal proteins.

“Since developing countries are the main suppliers of many plastic substitutes, increased global demand can create new, greener trade and investment opportunities for them,” said Coke-Hamilton. She added that changes in the production structure of most plastic substitutes could create new jobs.