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COVID-19 Has a Big Plastic Problem, Here’s What’s Being Done To Fix It

The COVID-19 pandemic has created just the right conditions for a surge in plastic waste. But scientists are exploring ways to reuse protective plastics without compromising public safety.
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The coronavirus pandemic has changed our daily lives in so many big ways, it’s easy to lose track of its less obvious impacts. While we’re tracking infection rates and figuring out how to best distribute vaccines, COVID has created just the right conditions for a surge in plastic waste.

And of course there’s the plastic product that is emblematic of the entire pandemic: single-use surgical face masks. Unlike reusable cloth masks, these masks are built for people in high-risk areas, like hospitals, who need to change their masks often and need an easy way to go about doing that.

Being able to dispose of a mask after just one use and replace it with a sterile one has huge advantages. But the need to keep healthcare workers protected from infection means these masks — along with other protective equipment like face shields, N95 masks, and surgical gowns — are used and discarded at an incredible rate.

Scientists are fighting back by exploring ways to reuse protective plastics without compromising people’s safety.

#masks #PPE #covid19 #coronavirus #environment #environmentalimpact #sustainability #zerowaste #plasticwastemanagement #pandemic #seeker #science #elements

Read More:

Sustainable Covid-19 protection

“Only a few months after the first cases of an unusual pneumonia appeared in China, certain plastic items – those used for personal protective equipment, or PPE – had become some of the most in-demand items around the world.”

NASA, University Hospitals Join Forces in Response to COVID-19

“A team of researchers recently developed and tested two new approaches that could enable health care professionals to sanitize masks on-site and safely reuse them. These approaches also may be useful to the aerospace community when traditional sterilization techniques might not be available.”

Accumulation of plastic waste during COVID-19

“If the global population adheres to a standard of one disposable face mask per day after lockdowns end, the pandemic could result in a monthly global consumption and waste of 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves.”

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