Pandemic Plastic Disaster – U.S. Leads World With 78% Increase in Plastic Waste, Ahead of China and India

A new report shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the environment due to increased plastic usage around the world – led by the United States with a 78% increase.  India’s plastic use is up 55% and China’s 50%.

While air travel, electricity usage and miles driven declined in 2020, increases in food delivery, online shopping, household trash and single-use personal protective equipment, has made the crisis of plastic in the ocean worse and it will nearly triple by 2040 to 29 million metric tons. today released a report, the Pandemic Plastic Waste Disaster, using the most recent data from the U.S. Transportation Department, Cirium data via FlightGlobal and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

The report found five factors during the pandemic devastating our environment:

  1. Food Delivery: An increase in high plastic usage food takeaway (plastic bags utensils and packaging) and ecommerce orders (plastic packaging).
  2. PPE: Massive spike in demand for single use personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves.
  3. Reusable Bag Ban: Many areas that banned single use plastic bags, temporarily reversed course, and did not allow people to bring their own reusable bags to stores.
  4. Recycling Centers Down: During lockdown, limited staff meant that recycling centers around the world were not operational, so trash ended up in landfills and the ocean.
  5. Cheaper Plastic Due to Lower Oil Prices: Decreased oil prices meant that producing plastic became even cheaper, hences driving up demand.

Several Key Findings:

  • Plastic Waste Surging: Countries with the highest increase in plastic usage during the pandemic: U.S.: 78% increase, Singapore: 65%, South Korea: 65%, Vietnam: 57%, India: 55%, China: 50%.
  • Electricity Usage Down in U.S.: On Nov. 29, 2020, electricity usage in the United States was down 3% from the previous year.  However, it was up 5.1% in the United Kingdom.
  • Air Travel: The number of passengers declined significantly at the top eight airports in the U.S. led by LAX down 67.3%.