The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically caused an increase in plastic consumption globally. This has been necessitated by the need to safeguard ordinary people and communities from the transmission of COVID-19. The result, however, is a dramatic increase in masks, syringes, gloves, and other PPEs. Recently, plastic syringes have been found on beaches, posing public health issues in communities.
To add insult to injury, strict lockdowns and quarantine measures lead to an uptick in food delivery and e-commerce, further aggravating the increase of plastic utensils, cups, and plastic bags that have proliferated in Asia Pacific. Coincidentally, lockdowns and strict quarantine measures have weakened waste management regulations and suspension of bans on single-use plastics in Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Governments, businesses and ordinary citizens alike have justified switching back from disposables and plastics because of hygiene. Since plastic packaging can be disposed of shortly after consumption, plastic packaging was generally perceived to protect the consumer from virus transmission. This has been a misconception, especially at the onset of the pandemic.
The plastic and petrochemical industries work together to capitalise on the narrative that food and other goods are safer when wrapped in plastic. They have used this angle to spread misinformation, halt single-use bans and regulations, and stoke demand to boost their plastic production exponentially.