The pandemic took a terrible toll on people. It will collect even more cruelly on the environment. There is a theory that COVID-19 may be Earth’s (as an ecosystem) defensive response to a parasite (human) that destroys it. Even if it does not find confirmation, in reality, the pandemic has shown that as a race we deserve to be decimated by mother nature.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have generated 8 million tons of medical waste, of which 25,000 tons will end up in the ocean. This is the result of the first large-scale study.
While the whole world was fighting single-use plastics more or less by 2020, the pandemic literally took us back to the starting line, and maybe even ahead of it. You do not need scientific research to see it with the naked eye – we will no longer buy plastic straws in the store, but disposable masks in plastic packages can be bought in bunches. The same masks then litter the streets, parks, and forests, are found by wild animals, and end up in the ground or the sea.
At first glance, it can be assessed that the problem of covid waste is serious. How serious – researchers from the University of California in San Diego decided to check, in cooperation with scientists from the University of Nanjing and the Institute of Oceanography in San Diego. They developed a model from which they calculated an estimate of the amount of garbage generated by the pandemic around the world, as well as the potential location of this garbage in a few years.
According to their forecasts, a significant part of the 8 million tonnes of waste will end up in the seas and oceans, only to settle on their bottom or on beaches in a few years.
Interestingly, the model developed by the researchers revealed that it is not sloppy individuals who are responsible for the largest amount of waste, but that medical facilities are responsible for them. This is especially true for facilities in developing countries, which had a problem with waste management before the pandemic, and COVID-19 only made dealing with waste more difficult. The vast majority of this garbage was generated in Asia, with as much as 73 percent. The waste that ends up in the oceans reaches there via three rivers: the Shatt al-Arab, the Indus, and the Yangtze. The trash flowing with them then ends up in the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the East China Sea. Second, in line is European rivers that discharge 11 percent of the world’s seas and oceans. covid waste.
Researchers were able to assess not only the source of the largest covid garbage dumps but also their possible route after the waste enters the ocean. Using ocean tide tables, they found that the greatest amount of waste would accumulate in the Arctic Ocean, and as much as 80 percent. the trash that ends up there will quickly settle to its bottom. Accumulation of covid waste near the North Pole is expected in 2025.
As of November 9, 2021, 5.06 million people have died due to COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, of which 77,760,000 have died. in Poland. It’s a terrible statistic. Do you know how scary it is? The one that shows that 10 million tons of plastic end up in the seas and oceans each year. The plastic that then ends up in the stomachs of the marine flora destroys the fauna and ends up in our stomachs in the form of decomposing microplastic.
It would seem that the culmination of this catastrophe is the plastic flowing on the shores of the beaches or floating among others in the huge ocean litter patch that the second phase of the Ocean Cleanup project has recently started cleaning up.
Meanwhile, the oceanic litter patch and other such hotspots account for only 1 percent. the garbage man-made of the oceans. As for the remaining 99% that settles to the bottom of the oceans, no one has any idea how to clean them up.
Now, research says that up to the 10 million tons of plastic we generate every day, there is also a huge patch of medical waste generated in the name of fighting the virus.
Humanity has done everything it can to survive, and personal protective equipment was an essential element for this – it is obvious. It is a pity that, by the way, we acted as usual: while fighting for our well-being, we completely neglected the well-being of the environment in which we live. Yet the pandemic is not over yet.
The covid drama is still taking place in many places around the world, largely due to the ignorance of anti-vaccines and the poverty of countries where people can and would like to get vaccinated but cannot. It should be realized that the statistics presented by the above-mentioned study are incomplete and – as the researchers themselves emphasize – may be significantly underestimated.
Optimism is not added by the fact that the majority of waste comes from countries that cannot cope with the waste completely, so even if in a gesture of solidarity, we all suddenly start to care for its proper disposal, the stream of waste will continue to flow rapidly through Asia.
I won’t be surprised if one of the next stops of the Ocean Cleanup project will be the Arctic Ocean and a huge stain of masks, visors, and disposable protective suits. I will also not be surprised if we will remove disposable masks from the forests for many years to come on World Earth Day. I will not be surprised if heart-breaking shots of animals tangled in masks win in wildlife photography contests, and we will be describing stories of whales in whose stomachs kilograms of medical waste mixed with Coca-Cola bottles were found.
We have survived the pandemic. Or at least we’re close to it. Many of us have had family drama behind us, and experts are already saying we’ll get over this with global post-traumatic stress disorder – therapists will have their hands full. Except that while COVID becomes merely a memory for us, our survival will be annihilation for other living things.