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

Historic Hat Creek finds novel way to keep part of site open

VIP shopping experience offers people private visit to site’s gift shop

Ashcroft food bank benefits from donation as demand increases

Community Futures Thompson Country provides much-needed cash donation

Cariboo ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

Time for some tick talk to keep people and pets safe from pests

Pesky creatures peak in June, but are out there lurking throughout summer and fall

B.C. government eyes antlerless moose harvest increase in bid to save caribou

Antlerless moose hunts reduce predation for threatened mountain caribou, says ministry

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

As two B.C. offices see outbreaks, Dr. Henry warns tests don’t replace other measures

Physical distancing, PPE and sanitizing remain key to reduce COVID-19 spread

Greater Victoria drive-thru window smashed after man receives burger without mustard

Greater Victoria Wendy’s staff call police after man allegedly rips Plexiglas barrier off window

Murder charge upgraded in George Floyd case, 3 other cops charged

Floyd’s family and protesters have repeatedly called for criminal charges against all four officers

Young killer whale untangles itself from trap line off Nanaimo shore

DFO marine mammal rescue unit was en route as whale broke free from prawn trap line

Most Read