DURBAN – Waterlogged masks, gloves, hand sanitizer bottles and other coronavirus waste are already being found on our seabeds and washed up on our beaches, joining the day-to-day detritus in our ocean ecosystems.
In urban areas plastic food containers, cutlery and bags have piled up, clogging landfills as people are stuck at home and are ordering take-aways food instead of dining at restaurants.
According to Wijarn Simachaya, president of the Thailand Environment Institute, urban waste almost doubled between January and March from a year ago mainly due to increased food deliveries.
Along with photos and videos giving disturbing evidence of this new form of pollution, French clean-up charity Opération Mer Propre is among those calling for action. “There risks being more masks than jellyfish,” Laurent Lombard from the organisation said in one Facebook post.
One study estimates that in the UK alone, if every person used a single-use face mask a day for a year, it would create an additional 66,000 tonnes of contaminated waste and 57,000 tonnes of plastic packaging.
The UN Environmental Programme has partnered with Sustainable Seas Trust and environmental organisations to create awareness of considerate waste disposal among citizens to also protect essential workers who work with waste.
UN South African co-ordinator Nardo Bekele-Thomas said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has aggravated the already growing waste management challenges in various cities and countries in Africa. Improper management of health-care waste poses serious harm to the environment and human health.
France is reportedly looking to increase fines for people caught dropping litter – including face masks and gloves. The proposal comes amid concerns over waste linked to the coronavirus pandemic, which has been found washed up on the country’s beaches.
Tips on how to dispose waste from Covid-19 positive patients at home:
- Throw used tissues into the toilet and flush them away.
- If you do not have a flushable toilet, you must make sure that used tissues and all other protective gear such as masks and gloves are placed in a plastic bag.
- When the plastic bag is full, knot the bag, put it into another bag and knot it tightly. (Double bag please)
- Hang or place the waste bag where it is in the sunshine and away from the pets until the next refuse collection day.
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