The pandemic has further exacerbated the problem of plastic pollution of the seas, as extra waste, weighing a total of about 25,900 tonnes, is estimated to have already ended up in the oceans, according to a new Sino-US scientific study.
These plastics are masks, gloves, surgical aprons, masks, antiseptic bottles and other protective disposable items, as well as plastic test packs, the demand for which has increased – last year and this year – due to the coronavirus. The vast majority of this waste (87.4%) comes from hospitals around the world, while only 7.6% comes from individuals and the remaining 5% comes from coronavirus test packaging.
The huge amount of plastics of this kind produced and consumed has proven to be beyond the capacity of most countries to recycle and process them. It is estimated that by the beginning of the pandemic by August 2021, 8.4 million tonnes of extra plastic waste had been generated by 193 countries.
Researchers from the University of Nanjing School of Atmospheric Science and the University of California Scripps Institute of Oceanography, who published the journal in the US National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) with the pandemic they will have ended up on the beaches (29%) or at the bottom of the seas (71%).
46% of the plastic waste of the pandemic comes from Asia and its countries with large populations (China, India, etc.), 24% from Europe, 16% from South America, 8% from Africa and 5.6% from North America. Asian countries are managing the pandemic plastic waste worse than Europe and the US.
The waste usually ends up in the seas via large rivers such as the Danube (1,700 tonnes of waste), the Indus (4,000 tonnes) and the Yangtze (3,700 tonnes). 73% of waste is transported via Asian rivers and 11% via European.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has led to increased demand for disposable plastics, intensifying an already out-of-control global plastic waste problem. “These discarded plastics can be transported long distances into the ocean, come into contact with marine organisms and potentially injure them or even lead to their death,” the researchers said.
Globally, it is estimated that up to 13 million metric tons of plastics of all types and sizes end up in the oceans each year.
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