COVID-19’s Environmental Impact

Finnian Waldron
COVID-19 has had both positive and negative effects on the world’s ecosystems.
Amid the turmoil of the early stages of COVID-19 lockdowns, heartening reports of improved air quality and animals returning to cities provided some hope during an unprecedented catastrophe. Unfortunately, while the lockdown had slowed some forms of environmental degradation, recent studies show that it has made others much worse.
One of the more extreme ways COVID-19 is contributing to the ecological decline is ocean pollution. Laurent Lombard of the French environmental non-for-profit Opération Mer Propre has said that “soon we’ll run the risks of having more masks than jellyfish in the Mediterranean.” Significant amounts of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) products like masks and gloves have been making their way into bodies of water, contributing to the eight million tons of plastic being dumped in oceans every year.
By 2050, studies predict that there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans. Masks and PPE products are an especially disconcerting addition to ocean trash since approximately one hundred twenty-nine billion masks and sixty-five billion gloves are used and discarded monthly.
In addition to PPE waste, the use of plastics in general has risen recently. This is due in part to the collapse of the oil market, making cheap plastic more accessible, as well as an increase in take-out dining. COVID-19 has been limiting recycling plants’ ability to safely process plastics, causing even more to go into landfills, the ocean, or incinerators.
Conversely, air quality has improved, and carbon emissions have gone down four percent since 2019. Noise pollution from vehicles and machinery has decreased tremendously as public transport and factories are shut down. Despite the increase in marine trash, beaches have stayed remarkably clean with a decrease in visitors.
In spite of the promising signs for the environment during the first few months of the pandemic, few positive changes are being seen. For the most part, COVID-19 has only exacerbated existing problems.


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  • Editors & Writers

    Avani Lakkireddy
    Quinn Luce
    Vineeth Mothe
    Charlotte Park
    Amrit Siam
    Finnian Waldron