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World's Oceans Accumulated 26900 Tonnes Of Plastic Waste Owing To COVID-19, Says Study

The pandemic saw an unprecedented rise, especially in the amount of 'pandemic associated waste', that is around 87% which from hospitals all around the world.

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The coronavirus resulted in our lifestyle getting transformed completely. While we are still adjusting to the new normal, the human race has not stopped leaving the earth vulnerable to degradation. A recent study made an alarming observation regarding pollution in the global water bodies.

Titled 'Plastic Waste Release Caused by COVID-19 and its fate in the Global Ocean', a total of 8.4 million tonnes of plastic was discharged into the world's oceans. Out of this, close to 26,900 tonnes was 'pandemic-associated waste' that include Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Kits, Gloves and masks. All of this stemmed from countries' waste mismanagement while tackling the supply-demand problem.

'Out Of Control Global Plastic Waste Problem'

The study is authored by Nanjing University's Yiming Peng and Peipei Wu. Speaking to The Guardian, they raised their concerns about how the waste proves to be detrimental for the marine ecosystem. "The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for single-use plastics that intensifies pressure on an already out of control global plastic waste problem. The released plastic can be transported over long distances in the ocean, encounter marine wildlife, and potentially lead to injury or even death," they explained.

The report looked into the main source of the waste. 87.4% of it came from hospitals. "PPE usage by individuals contributes only 7.6% of the total excess waste," it said. While there was an increase in online shopping during the pandemic, its contribution to the mismanaged plastic waste was next to minimal as it was only 4.7% and 0.3% respectively.

Vulnerable Regions Made The Largest Contribution

The mammoth waste problem only aggravated during COVID-19. A majority of it came from regions that were adversely affected by the pandemic as the demand for PPE kits and masks was at an all-time high. 46% of the waste came from Asia, followed by Europe and South America at 24% and 16% respectively. North America and Africa contributed the least.

The waste that found itself in the oceans came from rivers. Around 369 rivers around the world transported this menace into the waterbody. Shatt al-Arab, a river in Iraq, contributed a staggering 5200 tonnes of pandemic-associated waste, with Indus (4000 tonnes) and Yangtze (3700 tonnes) coming in really close.

The report added, "These findings highlight the hotspot rivers and watersheds that require special attention in plastic waste management." Further, it emphasised the dire need for better waste management techniques, especially in the developing countries so that it could equip itself to tackle another pandemic like this.

Also Read: India, One Of Worlds Top 3 Methane Emitters, Didn't Pledge To Cut Emissions

Contributors Suggest Correction
Writer : Akanksha Saxena
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Editor : Ankita Singh
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Creatives : Akanksha Saxena