We’re not just the infected ones; We’re infecting the planet too

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jia takayoshi

We as humans are helping with increasing the amount of plastic through the pandemic.

Ashley Lee, Staff Writer

As I got back home, I threw away my single-use mask and put the paper bag down on the table. I opened it and took the square plastic take-out boxes out, smelling the delicious food inside. After I finished eating, I threw the trash into the trash bin outside and saw the same plastic containers that have been piled up in the bin since the last time they emptied it.

Now, that scenario probably isn’t new for you. If you’ve gotten take-out since the pandemic started, you would have seen the square plastic containers before. Since the pandemic started, many people started to use hand sanitizers and the single use masks and almost all the restaurants have started take-outs and delivery services. We thought that we had to adapt to the infectious world around us by using the plastic and single use product. But are we only being infected or are we the cause of a different infection?

Let me ask you a question: How much more plastic have you been using since this pandemic started?

You probably answered, “A lot more.”

Let me ask you a question: How much more plastic have you been using since this pandemic started?”

Even before COVID-19, plastic waste and global warming were well-known issues. But now, these problems need to be known to the world, as the ocean will have more plastic than marine life by 2050 if we don’t do anything.

According to Scientific American, the amount of plastic that has been used since the pandemic started has increased by about 30%. With the recycling centers closing due to the lack of revenue, it causes many of the trash to go into the environment and it is predicted that the landfills and oceans will be overwhelmed with the amount of plastic used during the pandemic. And we, as humans, are helping with increasing it.

“There has been a serious rise in the amount of personal protective equipment we are seeing in the environment, and they’re overwhelming the global environment. We see plastic pollution from the top of Mt. Everest to the oceans around the world,” said Jake Rubenstein, the campaign coordinator of Earth Day Great Global Cleanup and Plastic. 

The amount of plastic that ended up in the ocean has increased by 25% within the 1 year of the pandemic. (Ashley Lee)

We are not caring enough of our planet, because if we truly did, we would not be seeing plastic on Mt. Everest. And because there is plastic at the starting point of rivers that run into the ocean, more plastic ends up in the ocean, causing the oceans to be polluted. 

Many say that the air quality got better due to the decrease in outdoor activities from the stay at home orders. However, it cannot hide the fact that global warming is still going on. Because many people are using plastic or single use items such as masks, gloves, plexiglass dividers and plastic bags, it causes more litter on the streets and the ocean. Every piece of trash on the street is an outcome of human actions.

We might be staying home for the majority of the time, but when we go outside, we are contributing to the pollution of single-use products. Just because we’re staying indoors doesn’t mean that the outdoors is getting better. In fact, it is the decisions we make from the insides that affects the outside. 

Plastics are most often derived from petroleum which is a form of fossil fuel. The negative impact that plastics have on the environment begins before the item is even purchased by the consumer since the manufacturing processes also leach various byproducts into the air and water. The consumed plastics themselves, if not recycled or disposed of properly, have a very long degradation time,” said Mrs. Nguyen, an environmental science teacher at Dougherty Valley High School.

Our ignorance towards the amount of plastic we use has caused an increase in about 25-30% within one year of the pandemic. We are helping the planet get warmer by using the plastic and single use products, as it releases many toxic gases such as dioxins, mercury, furan and polychlorinated biphenyls when burned, contributing to climate change. And all of this is an outcome of what we are using.

“The average person eats a credit card’s worth of plastic a week. It is killing fish in our sea and what’s already in the environment will have lasting effects that we are yet to see. Plastic is toxic to us and to the planet. Staying safe should be everyone’s top priority, but it is still possible to do so without the use of single use plastic and I believe it is important for people to be educated on how to reduce the amount of plastics they use on a daily basis,” says Rubenstein.

Now, you might say that there’s nothing that is good enough to replace the single-use masks and the plastic containers, and that these are the only things that are good enough to use.

However, there are many eco-friendly containers to use, and studies show that the single use masks are not as effective as others, and by using cloth masks with filters in them, you can greatly reduce the amount of trash you make. By using the eco-friendly items, it can not only reduce the amount of plastic, but also causes us to be more conscious of what we use. 

We’re not the only ones being affected by this pandemic. We’re giving ourselves an excuse to use more plastic than we actually need to. It’s past the time we start looking for what we can use to help the planet, because it’s what we already should’ve been doing.

We should now think about how the increased amount of plastic is being excused with the pandemic as the reason because we’re too busy thinking about how we’re affected by this pandemic to not realize that the Earth is hurting more than us.