Written by Khadra Anabosy
From a positive point of view, the lockdown during the pandemic has contributed to slowing down air pollution due to the reduced usage of transportation and numerous shut down resulting in decreased gas emissions. Unfortunately, however, that's not the entire picture. The pandemic created another serious issue of increasing disposable use for sanitary reasons. The pandemic waste of disposable masks, gloves, tissues, and other products will lay in landfills for hundreds of years and float in oceans putting marine life at risk.
Finding ways of dealing and getting through the pandemic safely while protecting our health and maintaining a sustainable lifestyle can be challenging. On one hand, we are asked by governments to use disposable products to limit contact with contagious environments, and on the other hand, we are creating more waste from products that we didn't use before the pandemic. Here are a few tips that can guide you to reduce waste and consumption of single-use products while keeping up with the health and safety guidelines of healthcare authorities.
Switch to a Reusable Mask
Have you seen photos of masks floating in the sea? Maybe you saw masks on the streets on your way home, as if they're covering the earth. Many of us use several disposable masks a day; imagine the amount of waste made only by these masks. According to the UN Trade and Development Body, the global disposable masks sales in 2020 are estimated to reach $166 billion while in 2019 it reached $800 million only. This is an indicator of how using disposable face masks will affect the environment.
Therefore, using a reusable face mask or making your own can truly help. Try also supporting local businesses that make eco-friendly masks and those that use dead stock fabrics. These businesses use leftover fabric from other production lines to make useful sustainable products. Take into consideration the thickness of the fabric and the number of layers to make sure that the mask in actually protecting you from contagious viruses. Make sure you wash the mask after each use.
Actively avoid using Non-Essential Plastics
Since we're spending most of our time at home many of us order food for delivery or takeaway. If you're buying the foods for takeaway then take glass utensils with you. And if you're asking for delivery then give the restaurant a note to not include disposables like cutlery, straws, napkins, or condiments as they come in additional plastic containers and bags. Instead, use what you have at home to minimise plastic waste as much as possible.
As a final note do not feel guilty for having to use disposable products now and then during the pandemic. We all sometimes face circumstances that require that for safety and health reasons.