Covid-19: Scientists say there is an urgent need to find alternatives to disposables | Covid-19

A team of scientists from the University of Aveiro (UA) launched on Tuesday a call to find alternatives to the use of disposable masks and gloves, given the increase in waste produced.

“There is an urgent need to find alternatives to the use of masks and disposable gloves”, defend scientists from the University of Aveiro (UA), who have been studying in recent months the increase in waste and the general decline of sustainable management of plastic waste.

While, in a first phase, confinement brought gains for the environment, with the reduction of atmospheric pollution, in a second phase the quantity of non-reusable plastics, including masks, gloves and other protective materials, which should be used to prevent contagion from the coronavirus, “has increased exponentially as the number of cases has increased”.

Joana Prata, Ana Luísa Silva, Armando Duarte, Teresa Rocha-Santos, Amadeu Soares and Diana Campos, from the Center for Environmental and Sea Studies (CESAM), one of the AU’s research units, have published three scientific papers in which they make recommendations for the collective, but also individual, management of “new” waste. “The correct disposal of disposable masks and gloves has been neglected and these residues have been found on the streets and sidewalks,” explains researcher Joana Prata.

Ana Luísa Silva and Joana Prata dr

Ana Luísa and Joana Prata, the first authors of these studies, estimated, based on public health strategies, that 129 billion masks and 65 billion gloves are needed each month worldwide. These figures, they stress, do not take into account disposable gowns and other protective materials, whose “inadequate management leads to widespread environmental contamination”.

To get around the environmental problem, scientists say there is an urgent need to find sustainable alternatives to masks, gloves and single-use plastics. They now argue that, “as far as possible, these materials should be recycled after disinfection or quarantine, that masks made from reusable materials should preferably be used and that the circular economy that was attributed to the materials. plastics should be restored. before the pandemic appears ”. These are just “some of the main recommendations put forward by scientists.”

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The pandemic has led to changes in the use of plastic, with an increase in the consumption of plastic in food packaging, such as food out and personal protection products. In scientific papers, produced in partnership with Dalhousie University (Canada), the Institute of Environmental Diagnostics and Water Studies (Spain) and Beijing Normal University (China), scientists recommend that the use of plastics “is done in a thoughtful and responsible manner” and that production is optimized, replacing the disposable by the reusable.

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