Covid-19: scientists say it is urgent to find alternatives to disposables | Covid-19

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A team of scientists from the University of Aveiro (UA) this Tuesday launched an appeal to find alternatives to the use of disposable masks and gloves, given the increase in waste produced.

“There is an urgent need to find alternatives to the use of disposable masks and gloves”, defend scientists from the University of Aveiro (UA), who in recent months have been studying the increase in waste and the general decline in the sustainable management of plastic waste.

If, in a first phase, confinement brought gains to the environment, with the reduction of atmospheric pollution, in a second phase the amount of non-reusable plastics, including masks, gloves and other protective materials, which had to be used to prevent contagion by the coronavirus, “increased exponentially as the number of cases increased”.

Joana Prata, Ana Luísa Silva, Armando Duarte, Teresa Rocha-Santos, Amadeu Soares and Diana Campos, from the Center for Environmental and Sea Studies (CESAM), one of the AU research units, published three scientific articles in which they make recommendations collective, but also individual, management of the “new” waste. “The correct disposal of disposable masks and gloves was neglected and these residues were found on the streets and sidewalks”, says researcher Joana Prata.

Ana Luísa Silva and Joana Prata
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Ana Luísa and Joana Prata, the first authors of these studies, estimated, based on public health strategies, that 129 billion masks and 65 billion gloves are needed each month worldwide. These figures, they stress, do not account for disposable gowns and other protective materials, whose “inadequate management results in widespread environmental contamination”.

To get around the environmental problem, scientists say there is an urgent need to find sustainable alternatives to masks, gloves and single-use plastics. They argue, now, that “as far as possible, these materials should be recycled after their disinfection or quarantine, that masks made using reusable materials should preferably be used and that the circular economy that was being traced for plastic materials should be used again. before the pandemic appears ”. These “are just some of the main recommendations put forward by scientists”.

The pandemic brought changes in the use of plastic, with an increase in the consumption of plastics in food packaging, such as take-away (takeaway) and personal protective equipment. In scientific articles, carried out in partnership with the University of Dalhousie (Canada), the Institute for Environmental Diagnosis and Water Studies (Spain) and Beijing Normal University (China), scientists recommend that the use of plastics “be done in a considered and responsible way ”and that the production is optimized, substituting the disposable one for the reusable one.

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