The return of single-use plastic [PHOTOS]

Le retour en grâce du plastique à usage unique [PHOTOS] 

Le retour en grâce du plastique à usage unique [PHOTOS] 

A dentist and his assistant donned protective gear, disposable plastic prior to an intervention to Camarma de Esteruelas, near Madrid.


June 20, 2020 22: 45


The return of single-use plastic [PHOTOS]

Catherine Hours

Agence France-Presse

PARIS — Hiding the faces or surrounding the vegetables, the single-use plastic, the world had begun to track down, is back in thanks to the favor of the crisis of the coronavirus, to the chagrin of the defenders of the environment.

Scourge of the oceans, these masks, gloves, and other packages, account for as much as a small part of activity of an industry of the plastic, and growth continues.

“Magic” plastic

Masks, visors, gloves, screens, etc. are the accessories of the spring. Here hairdressers are equipped in disposable gowns, the UN recommends that airlines serve meals blister, there are still elderly people living in residence specialized hug their loved ones through a transparent film.

California has lifted a two-month ban on bags, single-use, while in saudi Arabia, supermarkets charge their customers for disposable gloves.

Manufacturers have seized the ball. Mid-march, the French union of the plastics industry is split by a press release claiming that, “without single-use plastic, you will have no more packaging to protect your food from germs”.

Le retour en grâce du plastique à usage unique [PHOTOS] 

Masks, visors, gloves, screens, etc. are made of plastic.

AFP, Jorge Guerrero

In the United States, the Plastics Industry Association has claimed as soon as the 20 march that his activity be regarded as “essential” in a time of containment. “The single-use plastic is a matter of life or death” in the hospitals, wrote so Tony Radoszewski, president of the lobby, praising also the role of bags, single-use “to protect employees of supermarkets, and consumers of everything that is lying on the reusable bags.”

According to a survey OpinionWay-Sodastream, 66 % of the French say they favour the packaged food, for the duration of the crisis.

The chain of organic shops Naturalia has seen the bulk, yet in the growth of 20 % each year, neglected. “Our customers have tended to turn to the packaged products,” describes the dg, Allon Zeitoun. “It has not yet regained the pre-crisis level.”

Hygiene not guaranteed

The plastic, however, is not an absolute protection. For WHO, wash hands is more effective than wearing gloves.

According to a study published in the american journal NEJM, this coronavirus is detectable up to two to three days on plastic, 24 hours on a piece of cardboard.

Le retour en grâce du plastique à usage unique [PHOTOS] 

The plastic is not an absolute protection; the WHO says that washing hands is more effective than wearing gloves.

AFP Oli Scarff

“For medical uses, it was not better than the single use. But they want us to believe that it is a response to the current consumption. It is the lobbying. The re-usable does not pose a health problem”, said Raphael Guastavi, of the Agency for the control of energy (ADEME), “reassured to see that the european politicians have the desire not to yield”.

The Kenya non plus, which has prohibited since June all single-use plastics, including water bottles, in its protected areas.


Because the masks and other gloves come now strew the sidewalks, and beaches, from Hong Kong to Gaza.

WWF calls for vigilance : in 2019, it was already estimated to be 600 000 tons the amount of plastic discharged in the Mediterranean, of which 40 % in the summer. “The cultural battle against single-use plastic seemed to be won. Today a breach is open, it will be necessary to meet them”, said Pierre Cannet, WWF France. “A mask is not easy to recycle. The general approach of the government is to put in the household waste for incineration, which is from our point of view the best situation,” said Arnaud Brunet, the Bureau of international recycling (BIR), which brings together professionals from 70 countries.

“We will see what the practice was in the time, perhaps we can imagine a special collection, or in pharmacies, but it is not there”.

And as if that were not enough, the period is less favourable to the recycled plastic. The EU aims for 25% of recycled material in plastic bottles by the year 2025, at least 30 % in 2030.

“The cultural battle against single-use plastic seemed to be won. Today a breach is open, it will be necessary to respond to it. ”

Pierre Cannet, WWF France

“The COVID does not cause the strategy to move towards a circular economy and recyclability,” says Eric Quenet, of the federation PlasticsEurope.

But the drop in oil prices combined with weaker demand could weigh on the recycling, while the price of the plastic blank has decreased significantly.

Drop of water for the industry

Some 350 million tonnes of plastics are produced annually in the world, first in Asia (50 %), North America (19 %) and Europe (16 %), production of moderate growth, but steady.

Demand leaps for the market of protection (masks, surblouses, screens), but this volume remains low in comparison to the opportunities massive as the automotive or the building.

“For multiple hundreds of thousands of visors, it takes a few tons” of plastic only, ” says Eric Quenet. The plexiglass, very requested for the walls : “it is less than 1 % of the French market of plastic materials”.

Overall, for the first time since 2008, the sector is expected to year 2020 less good than 2019, because of the confinement.



Channels overflowing with packaging, landfills are flooded with bags : in Thailand, one of the biggest polluters of the oceans in the world, the waste plastics have exploded since the pandemic with the boom of the deliveries of the meals at home.

A boat from the Bangkok city hall advance in the canals of the capital. Objective : harvest a maximum of detritus that threaten to clog the sewers of this megalopolis of 11 million inhabitants.

Bottles, bags, containers of any kind cluttering the narrow channels, rendering the navigation difficult. Mixed with the vegetation and the food, most will be impossible to recycle.

The waste plastics “have almost doubled in urban areas from January to march. In April, year on year, they have jumped by 62 % just in Bangkok. The situation is worrying,” said Wijarn Simachaya, president of the thailand institute of the environment, questioned by theAFP.

Le retour en grâce du plastique à usage unique [PHOTOS] 

A boat from the Bangkok city hall advance in the canals of the capital. Objective : harvest a maximum of detritus that threaten to clog the sewers of this megalopolis of 11 million inhabitants.

AFP, Lilliam Suwanrumpha

China, Indonesia or Vietnam — other major polluters of the oceans — have not published statistics for this period, while in Japan, this type of litter has increased in the large urban areas, but was in the end better recycled.

In question, in Thailand : deliveries of meals-on-wheels. Already very popular in normal times by a population that kitchen bit at home, they have exploded with the containment and the closure of the restaurants.

The craze continues, albeit to a lesser extent, in spite of the progressive reopening of the country, which are approximately 3000 cases of COVID-19 and less than 60 deaths.

“The pollution of plastic may kill more than the coronavirus” in Thailand, sighs Ralyn Satidtanasarn, Lilly said, an ecologist at the us-thai 12 years.

Sixth polluter of the seas

The kingdom is already the sixth largest polluter of the oceans.

And the images of whales, dolphins or turtles found dead in recent months, the stomach lined with plastic, have shocked.

Pointed out, the government has banned in the beginning of the year the bags single-use in supermarkets, a small revolution for a country that consumed an average of eight per day and per capita, and twelve times more than in the european Union.

The goal was clear : reduce their number by nearly a third since the end of the year.

In 2020, this fight seems lost in advance. The waste plastics may even increase to 30 %, according to the thailand institute of the environment.

Le retour en grâce du plastique à usage unique [PHOTOS] 

The main cause of this pollution in Thailand: deliveries of meals-on-wheels.

AFP, Lillian Suwanrumpha

“The government is fully aware of this situation, but prefers to focus on the coronavirus,” sighs Lilly. When school resumes, it will dry up courses again to start on his board to clean up the channels.

A drop of water. The country has not recycled last year, that 19 % of the two million tonnes of rubbish plastics that generated it.

Many of the new waste products during the pandemic “will fail in rivers and oceans”, is worried about Tara Buakamsri of Greeenpeace Thailand.

This crisis “has cruelly highlighted the need for effective management from the private homes, hotels or shops to factories for reprocessing”, he says. The government has put in place last year an ambitious roadmap aimed at 100 % of recyclable plastic to the horizon 2027. But, the absence of political will, some observers consider unrealistic.

Dresses of monks, masks, shoes made out of recycled plastic, the individual initiatives are multiplying to make up for deficiencies.

Wechsawan Lakas, an assistant professor in a university in Chiang Mai, leads a small team that manufactures pavers-based plastic bags and sand to build roads.

They are “lighter to carry, stronger, can withstand between 100 and 400 years to decompose”, he says. “With a little funding, we could produce 500 a day.” But his project does not receive any public support.

Petrochemicals, one of the main opportunities is the production of plastics, is generating tens of thousands of jobs, and still all-powerful in the kingdom. Face it, “difficult to have a real political will. Changing attitudes will take years,” said the professor. AFP

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