ON the one hand, plastic is vital in combating the Covid-19 pandemic as it is used for personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks, gloves, goggles and gowns.
Nowadays, demand for PPE is not restricted to the medical sector where it is traditionally used, as the pandemic has also made it necessary for the general public to wear them, especially disposable face masks, to protect themselves from being infected by the virus.
According to a recent study by University College London, if every person in the United Kingdom used one single-use face mask each day for a year, it would create 66,000 tonnes of contaminated plastic waste and 10 times more climate change impact.
There is no issue in the disposal of PPE used in the medical sector as the process is overseen by the local authorities. A more worrying concern is the disposal of those used by the general public.
Moreover, PPE isn’t the only form of plastic waste triggered by the pandemic. Now that people are restricted to their homes under the movement control order, many are buying food and other basic essentials online. As a result, additional packaging is used, leading to a surge in another type of plastic waste.
Our country will face more critical environmental and health issues if proper facilities for handling this enormous volume of additional plastic wastes is not addressed.
MOHAMAD DANIAL SHAFIQ and MUHAMMAD RIDHWAN HAFIZ
School of Materials and Mineral Resources Engineering
Universiti Sains Malaysia