Have you ever stopped to think about all the waste generated in the last 30 months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic? How many masks, gloves, wipes, syringes and containers we’ve thrown away? It’s an interesting question, and some scientists are trying to get answers about all this extra garbage we’ve created and the effect it’s having on our environment.
Even back in the earliest days of the pandemic, there was concern about how much more waste was going to be created in the name of keeping people safe. For instance, the Solid Waste Association of North America said that there was a 20 per cent increase in the amount of waste collected in U.S. cities between March and April 2020. Local universities were even doing research into ways to reuse plastic PPE.
Meanwhile, a University of Guelph researcher was part of a team keeping an eye on the extent of the problem. U of G Associate Professor of Integrative Biology Shoshanah Jacobs and Dalhousie University PhD Student in Resource and Environmental Studies Justine Ammendolia co-wrote a study on how, in the course of five weeks in spring 2020, they found 1,300 PPE pieces discarded across an area in Toronto about the equivalent size of 50 football fields. So this is a real problem, right?
It is, and Jacobs and Ammendolia appear on this week’s podcast to talk about the findings of their research, how much plastic waste created during the pandemic there might be, and how the pandemic has affected the overall efforts to reduce plastic waste. They will also talk about the effects of PPE waste on animal populations, the longer term effects of plastic waste on animals and humans, and how we can balance public health protection and protecting the environment from PPE pollution.
So let’s talk about the plastic pandemic (so to speak) on this week’s Guelph Politicast!
The study around issues of pandemic plastic and waste continues, but you can read the piece Jacobs and Ammendolia co-authored called “The PPE used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is getting tangled up in wildlife” at The Conversation. You can also follow them on social media @shoshanahjacobs and @JustineAmmendo1.
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