COVID-19 has spurned growth in plastic consumption as consumers increasingly turn to online shopping and food delivery to escape any unnecessary possibility of human interaction. At the same time, less Americans are recycling their used plastics, creating a glut of plastic waste.
Online shopping and food delivery are plastic-intensive endeavors when compared to in-person shopping and eating at restaurants.
In March, 2.5 billion customers visited Amazon’s website, representing a 65 percent increase from last year alone. Uber Eats, a leading food delivery service, also saw first quarter sales increase by 54 percent year-over-year. The disposable mask industry alone grew from an $800 million market in 2019 to $166 billion in 2020, according to Grand View Research.
It is difficult to measure what this will mean more specifically to the global environment, but there have been a few studies in selected locations. For instance, there has been a 150 percent increase in plastics found in the general-waste stream in Athens, Greece. According to the International Solid Waste Association, this appears to be a global trend.
This would be a big deal on its own, but it has been compounded by the fact that local governments have restricted recycling and collection programs.
Some U.S. states have rolled back taxes on single-use grocery bags and Britain has lifted its ban on plastic straws. In addition, many workers and volunteers who sort plastic waste are also worried about contagion from contaminated waste since it appears that COVID-19 can remain present on plastic for 72-hours.
In the end, the World will eventually move on from the COVID-19 pandemic, but its impact on recycling and plastic waste will likely linger for years to come.
Rest assured that at Letzi + META Jewelry we are continuing our effort in doing our part. All of our packaging is plastic free* and comprised of recycled mailer boxes, recycled tissue paper and recyclable jewelry sleeves. We encourage you to do your part adopting some of these simple steps:
Repurpose the boxes you receive instead of using new boxes when shipping something out.
Keep your mail+gifts tissue paper to use in your own wrapping
Place in the recycle bin any plastic found in your packages
Shop local and with sustainable brands who are mindful with their packaging
*very few exceptions apply if we are repurposing already used mailers that contain bubble wrap.