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2020-2022: The Plastic Pandemic (And How to Manage It)

plastic pandemic

A plastic pandemic is coming to your municipality. For the past two years, since international action was taken to curb the spread of COVID-19, plastic production has escalated to blinding new heights. This is what your municipality can do in response.

It’s been two full calendar years since the world reshaped itself after COVID-19 impacted society. While no official environmental data exists just yet, experts are estimating that an additional 3.5 million metric tons of plastic waste has been created, from a single item (masks) in a single year.

COVID-19 brought with it an immediate increase in single use plastic production, a rollback on hard-won plastic policies all over the globe – and a debilitating blow to the already troubled local recycling industry. Decisions were made to save lives, and now municipalities face the environmental consequences. What will yours do in the coming years to fight against this new threat?

Here is how you can plan to manage the oncoming plastic pandemic.

#1: Support the Reinstatement of Plastic Policies

It’s true that plastic production in the US is at an all-time high.

The problem is growing, but there is legislature that aims to help on a national level. The ‘Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act’ will bring much-needed restrictions on plastic to North America. With new recycling standards, and a view to phase out single use plastic that can’t be recycled, this bill could be a game-changer.

If you haven’t already, talk to your team about initiatives that will support this bill, and educate your local community about supporting it too.

Find out more about the bill here.

#2: Focus on Your Beaches

Along with masks, millions of tons of gloves, packaging and other plastic-related PPE items will be washing up on coastlines across North America. Plastic cigarette butts are one of the biggest offenders, reports Phil Diehl of the San Diego Tribune.

Our coastlines are already home to microplastics that look like sand. These are polluting the ocean and everything in it. They’re a threat to marine life and need to be part of an ongoing and aggressive municipal clean-up strategy. California has already approved a plan to get ahead of the scourge, with the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Voter Act.

Consider investing funds into a coastal clean-up and recycling strategy of your own, to curb the plastic pandemic. If you’re lucky enough to be inland, consider doing the same for your lakes, rivers, and waterways.

#3: Improve Plastic Recycling Practices

Many recycling centers closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving some municipalities with less recycling capability than before. If your area has faced some closures, investigate solutions for reopening recycling centers, or find innovative ways to educate the community about recycling.

There are several government grants that exist that will help you start grassroots education programs in your town or city. Education often leads to improvement, investment, and significantly lower costs for the centers that are still operating.

One cost-effective solution is to join an app-based recycling education platform like Recycle Coach – but there are dozens of alternatives out there. Get your team together and discuss how you can improve the recycling practices of people in your municipality to end the plastic waste problem.

#4: Educate the Community About PPE Items

From sanitizing plastic-lined wipes to masks and latex gloves – every neighborhood in America is used to seeing these items in trash cans, or along the side of the road. It’s up to you and your team to launch initiatives to show the community there are more eco-friendly options out there.

Some 129 billion single use masks are used globally every month. They have fast become a bigger environmental issue than plastic bags. Now that we are fully into COVID-19 and understand it a little more, it’s safer to start suggesting that people use washable cloth masks. They’re greener, and they’re not going to harm any local wildlife. Plus, they’re recyclable!

  • Make it easier for people to buy recyclable PPE
  • Setup trash cans dedicated to plastic PPE items
  • Invest in green PPE initiatives for your community

Look into eco-friendly ways your community can cut back on plastic use and waste. Small adjustments can make a huge difference where PPE is concerned.

The last two years has escalated the issue of plastic waste. Now, every municipality faces a plastic pandemic and the chance to manage it in a way that saves even more lives. Our environment, health and ecosystem improves when we recycle right.

When you plan for the influx of plastic, the impact will be less on your municipality. Use this post as a reminder that plastic is the greatest challenge of our generation, and by facing it head on with technology, effective strategies, and our communities – we can make a difference.

Which of these ideas will you use to manage the oncoming plastic pandemic? Tell us below.