Masks, gloves, shields but also medical equipment and food packaging… The coronavirus pandemic has marked the resurgence of plastic, which we have been trying to reduce so far. The advantages of this material are undeniable, but its use requires appropriate management.
Plastic, one of our main allies in the battle against the coronavirus? “We are witnessing a great return of plastic in this period of health crisis, which reminds us of its main virtues” , confirms Stéphane Bruzaud, university professor at the University of South Brittany, in Lorient, specialist in plastic and bioplastics .
A return to grace, even: single-use plastic, hitherto much criticized for its environmental damage, is indeed sought after for its protective virtues. Its practicality and its small cost – thanks to the fall in oil prices – also plays in its favor.
But plastic also shows its limits. Studies estimate that Covid-19 would survive between two and six days on this material. And of course it generates a considerable mass of waste.Battle between Biodegradable and Compostable Industry
The very ones that recent regulations were trying to reduce. Thus, the 1 st January, the prohibition of certain plastic disposable products such as cotton swabs or disposable tableware came into force in France, with a view to total abolition of these products by 2040.
A report by the NGO Ecoembes indicates for example that in Spain, the quantity of plastic waste collected in yellow trash cans increased by 15% in 4 weeks of state of emergency; surgical masks pollute many beaches, such as those of the Soko Islands, near Hong Kong.
Plastic pollution continues to be one of the main environmental threats on the planet, according to the latest report from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) published in 2019.
PLA – Advantages & Disadvantages
“Reduce, reuse, recycle” , these are the challenges that Stéphane Bruzaud identifies in a world that seems far from being able to do without plastic.