In the early hours of the 28th day of February 2020, the federal government announced that Coronavirus disease (C0Vid 19) had unfortunately made its way into Nigeria through an Italian man that came into the country from Milan via Instanbul. This news meant different things to different people, as much as we all know how dangerous the virus is to our health, we decided to take a look at how much it will impact our struggle against plastic pollution.
Nigerians are not unfamiliar with panic and it is often expressed via unverified whatsapp broadcast messages, panic buying and price hike of goods and services. After this particular announcement, the case was no different. Hand sanitizers became hot commodity and vendors took the opportunity to hike their prices well over 100%, thankfully the federal government stepped in quickly to handle it by announcing an imposition of sanctions on the guilty vendors. Many people were seen walking around with face masks and hand sanitizers.
So how exactly does this virus affect the fight against plastic pollution? There has been an increase in production and demand of hand sanitizers, and these are packaged in single-use plastic. Ultimately, more hand sanitizers (single-use plastic) will be purchased and will end up increasing our plastic footprints.
The person-to-person risk of spreading the virus limits the possibility of having gatherings, walks and events to further push against plastic pollution.
The virus is also said to be spread through contact with infected surfaces or objects. As a result, many people would rather opt for single-use plastic that can be used once and thrown into the carnal, ocean or landfill. Some companies have already suspended the use of reusable plastic because of fears of spreading the virus, one of such companies is Starbucks. Rossann Williams, the Executive Vice President of Starbucks penned an open letter stating that the company temporarily suspends the use of reusable coffee mugs until the epidemic is brought under control. However, the company is pilot testing eco-friendly cups that will have compostable lining on the insides of the cups as opposed to plastic lining. This deals with the problem of the non-biodegradability of plastic.
Experts have advised that our focus should be on building our immune system as the virus stands a lower chance in such bodies. In addition to this directive, unconfirmed broadcast messages have circulated, urging people to drink more water as “drinking water helps the body fight against corona virus”. True or not, drinking more water is always a good idea. Unfortunately, not in a country like Nigeria where portable drinking water is a luxury. It means more sachet and bottled water will be purchased as there are no other eco-friendly alternatives, and the government does not seem to count availability of portable water as a priority.
So what ways can we make an attempt to still manage our plastic footprint in the face of these daunting challenges?
Home-made hand sanitizers are an option many should consider; ethanol, aloe-vera and a few other ingredients prescribed on the internet are a good DIY experience that not only teaches you something new, helps you save money but also helps you reduce your plastic footprints as you can get to use reusable plastic over and again.
With the high demand of hand sanitizers, now is a good time for companies that produce hand sanitizers to introduce packaging that is not single-use plastic.
Until we find a cure or a vaccine, we can only stay safe, practice healthy hygiene, care for ourselves and care for the earth too.