As the world battles to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, a business consulting firm, Grand View Research has said that global sales of disposable face masks are set to skyrocket from an estimated $800 million in 2019 to $166 billion in 2020.
According to Grand View Research, social distancing has also led to a flood of products delivered daily to homes wrapped in a plethora of packaging as people turn to online shopping and takeout services, adding that the ensuing plastic waste is enormous.
“Historical data tell us that 75 per cent of coronavirus plastics will likely become waste clogging our landfills and floating in our seas and the costs are staggering. The negative spillover effects of plastic waste on fisheries, tourism and maritime transport, for example, add up to an estimated $40 billion each year, according to the UN Environment Programme.” it said
Meanwhile, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in a report said that notwithstanding that coronavirus lockdowns around the globe have led to a dramatic 5 per cent drop in greenhouse gas emissions, not all measures to contain the pandemic have had a positive impact on the environment. UNCTAD’s Director of International Trade, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, said: “Our streets, beaches and oceans have been hit by a tidal wave of COVID-19 waste including plastic facemasks, gloves, hand sanitiser bottles and food packaging. “Plastic pollution was already one of the greatest threats to our planet before the coronavirus outbreak. The sudden boom in the daily use of certain products to keep people safe and stop the disease is making things much worse.” According to Coke-Hamilton, trade policy’s role should not be overlooked. “Plastic production and consumption are a global system that has lots of trade dimensions. “But the important role that global trade policies could play in the fight against plastic pollution has not garnered the attention it deserves,” she added. She noted that the number of trade measures mentioning plastics such as technical regulations, subsidies, licenses and bans reported to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has increased annually by 28 per cent over the past decade, showing growing concern among members.