This image shows the difference in nitrogen dioxide in Wuhan from Jan. 1 to Feb. 25. (NASA)

Pandemic could bring benefits to B.C.’s environment

Emissions over Wuhan decrease significantly after quarantine says NASA

While disinfectant wipes fly off store shelves, and reusable cups are turned away at coffee shops to slow down the spread of COVID-19, what could this mean for stopping single-use plastic?

Melissa Donich, CEO and founder of Drop the Plastic, says the pandemic could actually have a positive effect on the environment.

Drop the Plastic is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding immediate solutions to the plastic pollution problem.

Donich says that yes, people are going to be using more single-use plastic — especially in the medical and health industry — but the fact that flights are being cancelled and people are being told to stay home and reduce their travel is actually helping air quality and reducing our carbon footprint.

“Just because our behaviours might shift temporarily right now doesn’t mean we’re going to change that mentality and become a disposable industry, but right now everything is on hold,” says Donich.

On Monday, WestJet suspended commercial international and trans-border flights for 30 days. The suspension came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the only airports in the country accepting international flights will be Vancouver International Airport, Montreal-Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport and Calgary International Airport.

This week NASA released images from pollution monitoring satellites stationed over China. The country has shut down transportation going in and out of Wuhan, along with local businesses — one of the first quarantines in response to the pandemic. The images show that concentrations of nitrogen dioxide — “a noxious gas emitted by motor vehicles, power plants and industrial facilities” — have decreased significantly. According to NASA scientists, the reduction was first noticeable near Wuhan, but eventually was reflected across the country.

READ ALSO: Canada-U.S. border closing to non-essential travel

Donich believes a similar effect is taking place in Canada.

“So yes, the disposable plastic world is not looking good in sort of the medical health care industry, but in terms of our carbon footprint and our environmental impact — people are slowing down significantly … they’re closing borders and stopping flights,” she said.

According to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, “any potential minor environmental impacts from the necessary public health measures regarding COVID-19 will be temporary.”

When things get back to normal, Donich says she doesn’t think the pandemic will change the progress that’s already been made in stopping single-use plastic.

“[This] is obviously going to have an impact, but in the long run we have to take safety first and we’re stopping planes and other C02 emissions, so our environmental impact is actually much better,” she said.

— With files from Katya Slepian

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Major paving projects announced

Extends west of Smithers to east of Houston

Hatchery expansion project gets underway

Goal is to get structure to ‘lock up’ stage

Major paving projects announced

Extends west of Smithers to east of Houston

Witset writes its own cannabis law

First Nation says it is their constitutional right to govern cultivation and sale of marijuana

Police watchdog recommends charges in 2017 in-custody death of Witset man

Dale Culver was pepper-sprayed by RCMP in Prince George and died later in hospital

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Bateman program encourages people to sketch outside, connect with nature

#MyNatureSketch initiative encourages Canadians to become ‘bright-eyed three year olds’

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

Most Read