The COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, significantly changed the world and forced humanity to revise its values and set health as the priority instead of production and growth. Most of the nations had to deal with the spread of disease by establishing lockdowns, obligating people to wear protective items, and changing the economic plans to decrease the pandemic’s consequences. The new approaches to human behavior vastly impacted the environment in such points as climate change, waste, and air pollution. Zambrano-Monserrate et al. (2020) name the main negative aspects of the pandemic: reduction of recycling operations, increase in plastic waste, and air contamination due to the economic activity return (p.1). These problems need to be taken seriously, as each person’s future depends on the environmental factors. This paper aims to discuss what caused the issues listed above, and define the key solutions to decrease the environmental damage caused by the pandemic.
The spread of the COVID-19 and the contingency prevention measures harm the environment, and it is urgent to solve problems like the growing volume of waste, reduction of the recycling processes, and an increase of the greenhouse gas usage that pollutes the air. Each of the problems arises questions related to its consequences, steps to prevent, and the responsibilities to take. The volume of waste dramatically increased when billions of people started using masks and gloves, are there any alternatives to using and adequately dispose of these items? The recycling processes reduced to fund the money into healthcare, was it the right decision, should the government be responsible for the following environmental issues? The economic processes renewal requires the rapid increase of greenhouse gas emission, are there any ways of changing the policies of using it?
Environmental problems might be observed as something global, however, each person’s life is at stake. If not prevented or reduced on time, issues like air pollution and climate change will harm human health even worse than any virus. The cut of recycling and the increase in waste volume will require too many lands, and the growing human population will face catastrophic consequences within the next few centuries.
Protective gloves and masks became the most demanded clothing for billions of people. These items produced from polymers that cannot be recycled and the number of utilized masks accelerates the volume of plastic waste. Fadare & Okoffo (2020) claim that “face masks could increase the accumulation of their related microparticles in the environment within a short time” (p. 2). Therefore, the proper disposal of the masks must be invented as soon as possible. The lack of knowledge on how to deal with the masks after they used pollutes water and lands. Although there is no environmental-friendly affordable alternative for the masks and gloves, programs for proper and strict disposal must be established. As international regulators’ priorities are healthcare and economic sustainability, plastic waste disposal policies can be driven by local institutions. For example, a town can set strict rules of masks disposal, and collect them as separated waste.
The pandemic undoubtedly made healthcare the main priority: economics, political, social, educational, and ecological processes were put on hold during the lockdown. As governments deal with the consequences, they change approaches to push economics back to normal and keep the healthcare at the same intensive level. The environmental issues can lead humanity to catastrophic health consequences as well, but most recycling facilities reduced their work and had no funding to help to keep functioning. People must take nature and science into high value and consideration while making decisions related to economic growth and development (Dasgupta and Andersen, 2020). Government, educational institutions, communities – all have to be responsible for saving the environment. The best practice to begin is to educate the citizens about the importance of the problem and the steps to decrease the damage. The priorities set by the government for taking care of the environment will also encourage people to participate in reducing the consequences.
The lockdown forced by the pandemic paused many production and logistic processes and significantly decreased the greenhouse gas emission in many countries. Although the air became clearer, returning the economics to normal requires even more gas to use. It might become a threat to climate change dynamics, and regulative actions must be taken. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires companies to report the direct emission they make, but most of the firms are not capable of setting the actual impact. To make measurements accurate and considerable for the environment, the companies might determine quantity and location for direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions (Aldy & Gianfrate, 2019). If used worldwide, this approach will help in changing policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the post-pandemic period.
There are good effects of the COVID-19 spread for the environment as well: air quality improved, river waters became clearer, and air pollution reduced during the lockdown. Economic and political issues and global healthcare priorities are the limitations to prevent the environment from more harm after the Coronavirus spread. It is the chance for humanity to evaluate the impact on nature and rethink the development of economics, technologies, and life quality for a better and more sustainable environment. Hodges & Jackson (2020) state that “all nations must commit to policy decisions consistent with the outcomes of such research if they hope to optimize public policy in a way that ensures the long-term prosperity of human societies” (p.1). Therefore, the proper disposal of plastics such as masks, better waste management, and reasonable gas usage have to be the priority of the same value as healthcare.
The key solutions to decrease the environmental damage caused by the pandemic can separate into the regulative measures, and actionable steps. Governments or other regulators must set limits and terms and provide knowledge of the environmental problems for businesses to consider while making any strategic decision. Action required from each person is to evaluate their own ecological footprint and change attitudes to decrease the harm to the environment.
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Dasgupta, P., Andersen, I. (2020). Independent. Web.
Fadare, O. O., & Okoffo, E. D. (2020). The Science of the Total Environment, (737), 140279. Web.
Hodges, K., & Jackson, J. (2020). Science Advances, 6(28), eabd1325. Web.
Zambrano-Monserrate, M. A., Ruano, M. A., & Sanchez-Alcalde, L. (2020). Science of the Total Environment, (728), 138813. Web.