2020 has certainly been an unpredictable, unusual year – with Coronavirus putting a halt on our every day lifes and effecting businesses, in turn it has also effected our waste, in several different ways.
At the beginning of lockdown, household waste had seen a welcomed drop, which was very encouraging as less waste produced means fewer resources used and a lesser impact on the environment. One explanation for this decline could be the ‘essential shopping only’ advice given out publicly. It was recommended that our shopping habits should be change to support necessities and essential shops only. In turn this would prevent impulsive buying and therefore, potentially reduce the levels of food waste – as were only buying foods which we needed.
However, as time as passed and restrictions are slowly lifted, people strict shopping habits have begun to slip, and impulsive purchasing has risen once again. Another potential factor in the increase of food waste is the newly introduced ‘Eat Out To Help Out” scheme. A brilliant initiative introduced by the government to help the hospitality business get back on its feet, it has surpassed all expectations in popularity, being a very successful plan. However, the increase of people eating out to receive a discounted meal, could also potentially mean there is an increase of food waste. Evidence shows that as the capacity of customers in restaurants increases, so does the level of food waste. The discounted prices are tempting people to purchase excessive levels of food, which many times they end up wasting – thus increasing the levels of food waste produced by the restaurant and cafe trades.
An increase in the levels of PPE, now also means an increase in this type of waste. As people become more hygiene conscious and shops, businesses and public transport request that customers wear facemask, PPE levels have reach new levels of usage… but also new levels of waste. Our streets have become littered with face masks and gloves, as people mindlessly throw away their PPE, without considering the correct disposal methods. Sadly this waste is not only infesting our streets but it is also contaminating our water streams, oceans and countryside.
This could so easily be avoided with simple and easy disposal of the PPE into the general waste, with double bagging and 48 hours advice taken for anyone who has or has symptoms of coronavirus.
In March the government announced lockdown, this saw many businesses including hair and beauty, gyms, public houses and many others close. Many others had to furlough staff or allow them to work from home – during this time, business waste saw a dramatic fall. However, as businesses re-open and normality begins to resume, this has seen new, increased levels of waste, as places gain more attraction. Although the increase of waste would have been expected, the busyness of staff has meant that many recyclable items are being thrown into the general waste. This is of course preventing them from being recycled.
With waste levels increasing, we need to take better care of our rubbish and be more proactive and take greater responsibility for the waste we produce and how we handle and dispose of it. This will help us keep our planet beautiful and well protected, whilst also helping to keep resources within the circular economy.