COVID-19 has “changed peoples’ perceptions of plastic”, as the pandemic leads to a surge in consumption.
In recent months, the public have turned to protective equipment such as face masks, gloves and gowns – commonly made of plastic – as a way of keeping themselves and their loved ones safe.
Environmental experts are now warning that COVID-19 could pose an entirely different threat altogether, setting back the war on single-use plastics.
Prof. Dan Parsons, Director at the Energy & Environment Institute at the University of Hull, recently spoke on BBC Radio Humberside about the issue.
He said: “During the COVID-19 pandemic, our thoughts and feelings around plastic have changed because of the new relationships we have had with it.
“When we go out now, the first thing people reach for is the face mask, or gloves, both of which are made of plastic. It is now seen as this protective barrier against a disease we cannot see.
“Plastic has in recent months been the thing we have turned to, to keep us safe, and that is where this new relationship with it is really interesting.”
The University of Hull recently launched a Plastics Collaboratory, to further explore the interactions between plastic, people and our natural world.
Comprising of more than 45 academics and PhD students, in fields including health, politics, logistics, chemistry, environmental sciences and education, the Collaboratory is identifying the gaps and leaks in a plastics circular economy, and aims to instigate changes in our use of plastics, from product design to how materials are recycled.
Every year, around 12 million tonnes of plastic enters our oceans. By 2050, it is predicted there will be more plastic than fish in the sea.
Concerns have now been raised that COVID-19 could also provide a set-back in the battle against single-use plastic consumption.