I SENT this letter to Boris Johnson at the House of Commons:
I am writing to you on the subject of Covid-19 and its damaging effects on our environment. I would like to ask you reassess the newly-implemented requirements that have been created for people working in healthcare and other professions.
Despite efforts to produce a vaccine and implement new measures to reduce the risk created by the virus, we are uncertain how it will affect our lives in the foreseeable future.
Therefore, I believe it is important to ensure any measures we take are carefully considered, sustainable and meet our current needs without compromising the needs of future generations.
While the reduction in travel and industrial activity has been beneficial in terms of CO2 emissions, there are a number of aspects of our response towards Covid-19 that have the potential to negatively impact the quality of our environment long into the future.
As of May 10, 2020, the BBC reported a total of 192 million aprons and 711 million gloves had been distributed to NHS centres and private healthcare systems across the UK.
I recognise that access to PPE is necessary during these times and I support the decision to make it mandatory for all healthcare workers who are at risk.
However, it has come to my attention these aprons and gloves are single use and some are not made from environmentally-friendly materials.
Before the outbreak, we saw a massive focus on plastic pollution and protecting our planet, yet this is no longer visible on the current political agenda as coronavirus tops most of the headlines in our news every day.
In particular, the sandwich aprons being used as PPE for most people working in medical professions or other environments are having a massive impact as workers are being encouraged to dispose of all protective equipment after single use to prevent contamination. The majority of these aprons are made from non-recyclable plastics and other materials which could seriously damage our planet.
I feel we are not recognising the significance of the potential problems that will be caused by our actions during this uncertain period and would like to see changes in the way we approach the current situation.
One of the problems we face as a result of plastic usage is damage to our species, some of which are already endangered. As well as posing a threat to our wildlife when disposed of, the production of plastic contributes to our greenhouse gas emissions.
It is estimated the emissions from the production and incineration of plastics will total to 56 gigatons of carbon by 2050. With the increased production rates catering for healthcare professionals, this figure is likely to increase. However, there is still time to act before we reach a tipping point.
We should be mindful of these issues and become more diligent with how we respond to emergencies like the virus.
Much like we have seen changes in commercial shops with more supermarkets and individual retailers turning towards compostable plastic bags, we need to adopt the same attitude towards this situation.
I would like you to consider setting aside government funds to facilitate further research into finding a sustainable and cost-effective way of providing PPE to those who need it, without compromising the quality of our environment.
Thank you for your time and I hope you consider this when formulating policies and regulations for the future.
* By Mariam Al-Azzawi
Clare Mead, Rowledge