The Plastic Pandemic

Plastic gloves and masks are non commonplace on beaches and in streets. Photo by Brian Yurasits on unsplash

By Amy Block, age 9 and IndyKids Staff

In recent years countries began banning single-use plastics because they often end up  in landfills or, worse, in our oceans. According to the Smithsonian magazine, many states were forced to lift bans on plastic bags because people are using more single-use plastic to avoid contaminated surfaces and prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Increased plastic waste will affect how animals, especially those that live in the ocean, thrive. According to ABC News, 9 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every year, and it is expected that more than 330 billion vinyl gloves will be used this year. “Unless we change the way we use plastic within the decade, for every three pounds of fish in the ocean, there is one pound of plastic,” said Judith Enck, a former EPA official, in an interview with ABC News.

As the demand for single-use plastics grows and the cost of oil goes down, Enck worries that the amount of factories producing plastics is expected to rise. According to the World Economic Forum, in the next five years the rate of plastic production is projected to rise by one-third, and by 2050, it may triple.

But the coronavirus pandemic has shown that the use of plastics can be essential to prevent the spread of diseases. Organizations, such as TerraCycle, Rothy’s and Waste Management, are now exploring ways to better recycle plastics and start exploring used plastics as a resource rather than waste. TerraCycle, based in New Jersey, has designed a system for businesses to safely recycle their used PPE (personal protective equipment) to try and reduce the amount of waste that ends up on streets and, ultimately, in the ocean.

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