Plastic Purgatory

Quite a few of my readers have commented on the amount of plastic involved in my quarantine journey/meals. Absolutely – and you just saw the plastic involved with meals. It’s actually far worse.

The worst of it is that the only choices I can exercise in this is to cut the meal plastic by 2/3 by having one meal a day, by using my reusable washable cutlery instead of the daily packs and by only putting out my waste when the yellow bag is full instead of daily. I fear however that anything I don’t use will still be scrapped as “potentially infected” rather than re-used.

Not only quarantine

As this article Increased plastic pollution due to COVID-19 pandemic: Challenges and recommendations
by Silva, Prata, Walker, Duarte, Ouyang,Barcelò, and Rocha-Santos (2021) doesn’t even mention the waste in quarantine hotels – perhaps because it’s European based where the concept is not a reality yet. And the general waste generated is phenomenal. While they are careful to weigh up the positive and negative impacts of the pandemic they also warn “While the positive impacts of COVID-19 in the environment are resulting from a “postponed” anthropogenic activity that soon will entail after the pandemic scenario; the negative short-term effects (that are mostly related with plastic use, consumption and waste mismanagement as discussed below) will shortly add-up to the current environmental issues, aggravating their impact in the natural ecosystems and compromising potential mitigation/remediation measures.”

Image from: Increased plastic pollution due to COVID-19 pandemic: Challenges and recommendations
by Silva, Prata, Walker, Duarte, Ouyang,Barcelò, and Rocha-Santos (2021)

As Wired Magazine explains in their article – it’s not just the creation of extra plastic waste that’s the problem – it’s also the decline in recycling. I must admit I also get really annoyed at the articles that keep on pointing out that China is no longer prepared to act as the world’s garbage recycling center as if that’s not a good thing – heaven knows they have enough on their hands with the waste generated here without having any culpability in the rest of the world’s waste.

Medical Waste

According to this article “China has witnessed an accumulated 142,000 tonnes of medical wastes with the national medical waste treatment capacity increasing from 4902.8 tonnes/day before the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak to the current 6022 tonnes/day.” COVID pollution: impact of COVID-19 pandemic on global plastic waste footprint
Benson,Bassey and Palanisami (Feb 2021). And of course all the waste coming out of my room – the uneaten food, the plastic containers, my tissues and paper is all treated as medical waste because I’m assumed contaminated unless proven otherwise.

Problem rather than solution focused

The annoying part of it all is that there is a lot focused on the problem, but not much on the solution to this – we’re well past the 18 month mark and it looks like covid-19 is going to be part of the landscape for a very long time. The World Economic Forum’s Jacob Duer (President and CEO, Alliance to End Plastic Waste)just reiterates all the issues and then says: “As the global economy restarts, aid agencies, development banks, and NGOs should invest in building effective waste-management systems. Beyond helping to keep plastic waste out of our oceans, such systems can provide decent jobs and improved livelihoods, resulting in stronger, more sustainable economies in the long term.” I don’t see much on the ending of waste when the talk is just about investment in waste-management systems.

Tomorrow the second of the 7 covid tests I’ll be having on this leg of the journey – not sure what will happen when I get back to Beijing since things are locking down and it looks like I have another 21 days of (hopefully home not hotel) quarantine / isolation etc.

To end this rather depressing post – a picture of my crochet progress, me vitamin D bathing on my towel at the window where the sun is streaming in and the cloud that looks like it has a silver lining – please don’t tell me it won’t work through glass!

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