Coronavirus pandemic leads to more single-use plastics

Updated: Jun. 1, 2020 at 10:02 AM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - During the last few months, many people have been ordering more packages, eating out more and using necessary PPE.

But, that also means more cardboard isn’t being recycled, more plastic forks are being tossed after one use and we’re seeing more plastic gloves and masks littering the ground.

Joy McKee with Huntsville’s Green Team said people need to look for what they don’t need.

She said people should ask restaurants not to include items like plastic silverware and napkins when they order out. Instead, McKee said people should just use the silverware and napkins they already have at home.

Another was to reduce waste, McKee said people should use reusable grocery bags. Most people already have piles of plastic grocery bags in their homes, this saves space and the environment.

Above all, McKee wants people to be mindful and think about what they’re doing before they slip off that plastic glove and toss it in a parking lot.

“We’re seeing a lot of the PPE over the town, we gotta really think," she said. "Where is this going to end up? Is it going to end up in our waterways? Yes, it’s very possible that it can. Does it look bad? Yes, it’s very terrible.”

It’s not just the PPE, though. McKee wants to make sure people know plastics are awful for our environment.

“Plastics in our environment are really bad, especially in our waterways, our oceans, our streams and our creeks," she said. "They’re really horrible and with us having an influx right now of these plastic items we sure don’t need to be throwing them out of our car. They don’t need to be in the natural environment.”

Another issue McKee and the Green Team are running into, because of the pandemic, are less people who want to pick up litter.

McKee said concerns over how the virus spreads have led less people to volunteer.

“Normally, every week we would have people coming here to pick up items, can catchers, bags to clean up in their neighborhoods, but we haven’t seen as many people," she said.

Even with the increase in plastics, McKee said the most littered item she sees is still cigarette butts. She said these take 15 years to fully biodegrade and can put nasty toxins in our water. She said people need to stop throwing them on the ground.

For anyone interested in recycling in Huntsville, you can go to the city’s Solid Waste Disposal website to learn more about how you can start.

McKee said the Huntsville Green Team also takes items like plastic grocery bags and plastic screw tops to repurpose them.

She said the plastic bags become dog poop bags for people to use at parks and the plastic screw tops get turned into car part at a factory in Troy.

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