La pandemia del plástico

The plastic pandemic

Confinement has been the word of 2020 for the RAE. A term we were practically unaware of a year ago but which has turned out to be one of the most used and most searched terms.

Confinement robbed us of our freedom. It robbed us of mobility. We ceased to be free and to move freely. This forced confinement caused many things, but not all of them bad for our beloved planet. Fewer airplanes, fewer cars, fewer factories... in short, fewer polluting gas emissions. In fact, the biggest drop in CO2 emissions in recorded history. Even NASA detected, from space, the decrease of polluting gases in the atmosphere.

But unfortunately, not everything was going to be good. The pandemic has triggered one of the things we hate the most: the production and consumption of single-use plastic products. Gloves, screens, bags and other items for individual protection. The fear of contagion has forced us to protect ourselves much more, but at the expense of the environment.

Plastic has become the best ally against the pandemic. It is lightweight, inexpensive, durable and versatile. Hundreds of millions of masks and gloves have been distributed worldwide since last March. Not to mention all the plastic material used for virus detection, such as rapid tests, PCR kits, aprons and gloves. Moreover, the situation is dramatized by the fact that these are disposable products that are difficult to recycle, since they are sanitary materials that are susceptible to having been in contact with the damned virus.

But all this has been aggravated a little bit more. Because of the pandemic, oil prices have fallen, allowing much more plastic to be manufactured much more cheaply. So plastic has been, on many occasions, an ally during the confinement. Hands up who hasn't increased their food delivery orders during these months. Unfortunately, and with little alternative, we have completely changed our plastic habits. It has crept into our homes in the form of bags, food and beverage containers... in short, as a shield against the fear of contagion.

And when the pandemic is over, what will happen? Will food delivery companies opt for paper and cardboard instead of plastic? Will we go back to the habits of the past? To the good old trend of reducing items such as straws and single-use cutlery? Does anyone know?

Hopefully we can reverse the situation, although it seems complicated. It is possible that the virus will leave us, but the gloves and masks will remain in the seas and oceans for many, many, many years to come.