By CBSMiami.com Team

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A new study published in the journal of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences finds the battle against COVID-19 produced 8.4 million tons of plastic trash. From that, 57 million pounds of everyday personal protective equipment (PPE) ended up in the seas.

Add to that more packaging material from online shopping as people stayed at home.

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“We think that that’s likely to be an entanglement hazard for fish, for sea turtles, probably for seabirds as well,” said George Leonard, chief scientist at the Ocean Conservancy organization. Volunteers cleaning canals in the Netherlands found a fish trapped in the finger of a latex glove.

Researchers say Asia has generated about 46% of pandemic plastic waste, while 22% came from North and South America combined, and 24% from Europe.

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The study found the most waste came from hospitals. “We’re using more than two billion masks a day, these single-use throwaway items,” said Dr. Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of 5 Gyres, an organization dedicated to researching plastic pollution and cleanup.

Dr. Eriksen has studied the plastic problem for more than 20 years. “The pandemic is producing a lot of trash and we’re hoping that this blip in trash generation will fade as the pandemic does. Going to reuse and reusable systems is the way to go,” he said.

But if action isn’t taken to either recycle or better manage the waste, researchers predict three million more tons of trash will pile up and stay with us long after the pandemic winds down.

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Experts estimate another 34,000 tons of plastic waste could be dumped into our oceans before the pandemic ends unless more environmentally friendly solutions are found.

CBSMiami.com Team