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Single-use plastics are being taxed and phased out across the country, but what do we do about the single-use items we can’t avoid? This is the conundrum facing the country as the vaccine rollout continues and accelerates. With over 230 million doses administered before President Biden’s 100th day in office, millions of plastic syringes have been disposed of, and experts say that the world isn’t prepared for this sudden increase in medical waste.
Needle in a Haystack: “It is a ticking time bomb that will have a terrible impact on people’s health,” said Carlos Filho, head of the Rotterdam-based International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). Across the world, waste management firms and governments are struggling to keep pace with the pandemic.
One French waste management company, Suez, said that one of its plants processed three times more medical waste in 2020 than in 2019.
Studies have shown that salvagers in some nations have taken used syringes from landfills to resell. It’s not just hospitals and clinics overwhelming waste-management systems. Parking lots, sports stadiums, and large outdoor spaces where vaccine centers have been set up produce an unprecedented amount of waste. Additionally, increased disposable mask use by the public and cardboard and paper waste from home deliveries are putting pressure on the system. “An unexpected pandemic showed that the world did not have the necessary infrastructure to cope with an increase in waste,” explained Filho.
But there is still hope that innovation will help the world overcome this crisis. One U.S. firm, OnSite Waste Technologies, has created a desktop device that can melt down syringes into a non-toxic brick of trash that is easier to store or dispose of. Another study showed that using more recyclable materials in syringe production could make future vaccinations far more eco-friendly. But no matter what, this global problem requires a global approach. This year, the United Nations will convene a coalition of interested nations to form a treaty on plastic pollution. Every country must set goals to reduce their plastic pollution in addition to reducing their emissions, or the world will face future health crises even after the pandemic.
This past July, all eyes were on Tokyo when over 10,000 Olympians from 206 nations descended on the city to make history. Despite a decrease in carbon emissions due to COVID-19 and fewer traveling spectators, the games still produced 2.3 million tons of CO2. In 2021, The International Olympic Committee (IOC) pledged to reduce […]
Startups across the country are on a mission to provide sustainable food packaging options and close the plastic loop, especially prompted by the pandemic take-out boom. Over 70% of Americans order delivery one to three times a week, creating hundreds of billions of single-use bowls, bags, utensils, and more. But some innovative companies have […]
Five winners have been awarded £1 million each by Prince William’s Earthshot Prize in recognition for their sustainability and conservation efforts. The winners across five categories are: coral-growing and reef-restoring enterprise Coral Vita; the Republic of Costa Rica for its programs in forest restoration; the company Takachar whose technology can turn agricultural waste into sellable […]
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