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

Air Canada extends suspension of flights in and out of West Kootenay Regional Airport until April 30

It’s still unknown if flights will resume at Castlegar’s airport on May 1

Nelson and COVID-19: everything you need to know

Check this page for every local story related to the outbreak

LETTER: Ophthalmologist still needed in Nelson

Reader Kurt Hilger says the Star’s March 12 story was misleading

Q&A: Interior Health CEO answers questions on COVID-19 response

Susan Brown, president and CEO of Interior Health, answers questions regarding COVID-19

B.C. couple celebrates 61st anniversary through seniors’ home window

Frank and Rena Phillips marked occasion at Nanaimo Seniors Village this week while social distancing

‘There can be no ambiguity’: Travellers brought home to B.C. must self-isolate

Health Minister Adrian Dix said the mandatory isolation must be abided by

COVID-19 has been impacting Canadian economy since January

But full effects of pandemic won’t be known for months

Doctors trained abroad want to join front lines of COVID-19 fight in Canada

B.C. is looking to allow internationally trained doctors to work under the supervision of attending physicians

Fake test kits and other COVID online scams play on public anxiety: fraud centre

Vancouver has seen a spike in commercial property crimes, with offices and stores empty because of COVID-19

Canada’s 75% wage subsidy is coming, but not for several weeks: finance minister

Subsidy will cost Canada $71 billion, but push down cost of emergency benefit, Morneau said

Feds amplify stay-home message as cost of financial aid to Canadians mounts

Liberals have unveiled around $200B in direct financial aid and tax deferrals

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Most Read