Covid-19 has led to an increase in the demand for single-use plastics and equipment of researchers, through a model, has been estimated at about eight million tons waste of this type associated with the pandemic, of which more than 25,000 tons they enter the oceans.
The increased use of masks, gloves or face shields, among other objects with plastic, coupled with poor waste management, will cause some of it to end up in rivers and oceans intensifying the global problem of this type of garbage, indicates a study that publish Pnas.
The research, led by the Chinese University of Nanjing and the American University of California in San Diego, points out that in about three or four years it is expected that a part Much of this ocean plastic debris reaches beaches or the seafloor. A smaller part will go to the open sea, to end up trapped in the centers of the ocean basins or in subtropical gyres, where they can become patches of garbage, and in a circumpolar zone of accumulation of plastics in the Arctic Ocean. The team used a numerical model to quantify the impact of the pandemic on discharges of plastic of terrestrial origin, from the beginning of the same and until last August. Most of the plastics that enter the ocean come from Asia and waste hospitals make up the majority of discharges on land, so the study reveals the need for better medical waste management in developing countries. The researchers found that most of the global plastic waste from the pandemic reach the ocean from rivers, and Asians account for 73 percent of the total dumping of plastics.
The rivers that contribute the most to this contamination are the Shatt al-Arab, the Indus and the Yangtze, which They flow into the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the East China Sea. The rivers Europeans, meanwhile, account for 11 percent of discharges, with contributions minors from other continents.
Although most of the plastics associated with the pandemic are expected to end up in beaches and the seabed, it is likely that a smaller amount ends up circulating or settling in the Arctic Ocean.
“We know that if the waste is released from Asian rivers into the North Pacific Ocean, some probably end up in the Arctic, a kind of circular ocean that can be, a bit, like an estuary, accumulating all sorts of things that are released from the continents,” said Amina Schartup of the University of California. The model shows that about 80 percent of the plastic waste that transits towards the Arctic will sink rapidly and the formation of an accumulation zone is expected circumpolar plastic by 2025.
The numerical model works as “a virtual reality” that simulates how the object moves. wind-driven seawater and how plastics float to the ocean surface, they degrade with sunlight, fill with plankton, settle on the beaches and sink in the depths, explained another of the authors, Yanxu Zhang, of the Universities of Nanjing.