The pandemic is threatening single-use plastic progress

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The UK has been working to fight against single-use plastics. However, littering has increased since the coronavirus pandemic began. This comes in-part from the fact that government and health workers are urging civilians to use protective equipment such as plastic gloves and masks. These single-use plastics are, unfortunately, polluting the world.

Written by Sila Kiss

There are two main problems with single-use plastics at the moment. First of all, people are scared of becoming infected, therefore they do not pick up litter from the streets. Some people even throw out their trash directly to the streets. Oddly enough, before the pandemic, dog owners were more responsible. Now, it is common to see dog litter on the streets as well. Littering has a fine of up to £2,500 but of course it is hard to police this. 

Secondly, what will we do with this single-use plastic when we’re done with it? We need to use protective equipment but we should also care about how it impacts the environment. In May 2019, the UK Government passed a law on banning these plastics, however, the single-use plastic ban has been postponed to October 2020 due to the pandemic.

Although the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has promised to be committed to achieving their goals, many environmental campaigners criticised the decision to postpone. Environmentalists have been concerned that the UK Government is not reliable anymore. Anti-plastic campaigners have also drawn attention to the government’s concerns regarding the fossil fuel industry, rather than the Earth’s well-being.

After the law is put into action, only registered pharmacies, medical and scientific laboratories will be authorised to use single-use plastics. 

Why do we use so much single-use plastic?

Although the Food Standards Agency emphasises that it is very unlikely to get the virus from food, people still lean towards buying plastic-packaged food. According to the World Health Organisation, there have been no confirmed cases of Covid-19 via food.

© Ronise Daluz

Loose fish and meat counters are mostly closed, therefore people need to buy packaged items. Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s report shows that sales of pre-packed equivalents surged while the loose meat rates plummeted. People have also stopped dining at restaurants which has caused an increase in takeaways.

Oil prices have dropped. Plasticexpert.com explains the direct relationship between oil and plastic recycling on their website; 

“Plastic is made from several components, one of which is oil. This means that when the cost of a barrel of oil falls, the price of making plastic also decreases. This may seem like a positive market move on the surface, but it provides problems for plastic recycling. If the cost of producing virgin plastic, plastic that has not been recycled, falls, manufacturers will be more likely to invest in virgin plastic, rather than recycled plastics. When prices start to drop, virgin plastics become more appealing to the detriment of recycled products” 

What can we do to help?

Hopefully, this pandemic will be under control by next year. Meanwhile, environmentalists recommend keeping disposable plastics to a minimum level. Reusable mugs are not allowed to be used in coffee shops anymore. For this reason, you can bring your own cup. Moreover, you can reduce the excessive and unnecessary use of plastics by refusing them in take-aways. Remember to be mindful of this issue in all areas of life and to not make a habit of using single-use plastics. Also, it’s always worth voicing your concerns to your local council and/or MP. 

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Featured image: © cottonbro

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