The great wave of waste – Covid-19

The great wave of waste – Covid-19

by admin |June 29, 2020 | Blogs


2020 has turned out to be a great disaster for many – from wildfires in Australia to coronavirus all around the world. As the covid-19 pandemic unleashes it’s wrath over humanity there is another plague rapidly infecting the world. PPE or Personal Protective Equipment have been a major part of the pandemic since the beginning. Used mostly by doctors and other health-care workers, PPE are protective clothing that shield the user from infections. Though PPE are not new to this world and are probably the reason why many health-care workers other essential service providers have been able to survive and protect themselves from the virus, they have become a nuisance to the world oceans. We have recently seen a dramatic increase in the use of the protective gear in 2020 as the coronavirus spread started and soon turned into a pandemic.

Further, many countries, including India, at one point or another made into mandatory for their citizens to wear protective masks while in public spaces. Many also wear gloves to protect themselves when touching unsanitized surfaces. While some are using reusable protective masks and gloves most people use non-reusable ones which has led to an increased waste content in the oceans. The disposal of the non-reusable protective gear has created a major negative impact on life under water.

While organizations such as 4Ocean and The Ocean Cleanup work tirelessly to remove and recycle waste from oceans, many fear that the efforts governments and the public have made to discourage people from using single-use plastic over the recent years will go to waste.

Gary Stokes, an environmental activist collected discarded medical from a beach in Hong Kong in February 2020


Thailand Environment Institute reports that the country produces around 1.13kg solid waste per capita per day. The use of infectious masks has increased exponentially in Thailand with over 1.5 million masks used every day. TEI states “50 tons of total infectious waste are collected from various medical centers, but only 43 tons per day, in normal situation, are treated by effective incinerators”. Much of this excess, untreated infectious waste would either end up in the ocean or get mixed with other municipal waste which, being an inappropriate form of disposal, can cause infections to the public.

Medical waste such as masks and PPE should always be collected and disposed as ‘hazardous’ or ‘infectious’ waste. After the proper collection medical waste should be transported safely to an incineration facility and incinerated at a temperature over 1,000°C.

Other than Thailand countries such as Singapore, India and the U.S. have also been generating much more medical waste than usual and while medical institutions cannot be blamed for generating excess waste, the disposal of the waste is something individual governments need to actively work on. Manila, according to The Asian Development Bank, has been producing an extra 309 tons of medical waste daily. The Asian Development Bank also points out that only “few cities have the capacity to deal with” the excess waste.

An increase in food delivery and online shopping was also seen in several cities around the world during and after lockdown periods which has only made situations worse. Packaging and delivery services must also become environmentally conscious and adopt plastic-free packaging and contact-free delivery systems.


Solid waste in oceans is not a new issue but in this time of absolute chaos, what can be done to reduce the amount of waste we generate and that which goes into the oceans?

  1. PPE and other medical equipment can be sanitized/ disinfected and reused as much as safely possible
  2. Use reusable masks when going out. If you find it hard to search for reusabel masks in the market, try getting some from small, local businesses. You can also try using scarves.
  3. Packaging and delivery service providers, specially those concerned with food delivery services, can and should reduce plastic, non-reusable packaging and items such as plastic covers and sporks.
  4. We should all act as responsible citizens of Earth and refrain from using unnecessary non-reusable items.
  5. Go ‘Atmanirbhar’. Cook food at home instead of ordering in. If you are craving a burger, why not learn a new skill and make them at home.
  6. Use your plastic waste at home to create art and flaunt it in front of the world.
  7. Buy in the family pack. When you’re out for groceries try buying the larger packs of plastic wrapped items since multiple small items use more packaging than a single large.

Your safety is important, but so is the safety of the environment. Go green and self-quarantine.


Share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *