Zimbabwe’s health department recently launched the new crown vaccination work. First line medical staff and workers from airports, ports and other high-risk places all over the country became the first batch of vaccinated people and began to receive the new crown vaccine assisted by China.
As novel coronavirus pneumonia is the most common material in medical equipment, plastic medical products play an irreplaceable role in global epidemic since the outbreak of new crown pneumonia. With the continuous global epidemic, the demand for plastic products has increased significantly, and the supply is insufficient due to the shutdown and poor transportation. The plastics urgently needed for anti epidemic are facing a global shortage.
But at the same time, more and more studies have shown that plastic waste and the plastic particles decomposed by it are accumulating in every corner of the world at an alarming rate, and the bacteria that breed there may trigger a new health crisis.
The flooding of plastics has even formed a unique stratum on the earth’s surface, which has a long-term and significant impact on the global ecosystem. Some studies even regard the “plastic layer” as a new indicator to determine the geological age of the earth.
Angel or devil, plastic that people both love and hate trapped us in a dilemma.
Hospital emergency: shortage of plastics or threat of virus detection
Martin Hirsch, head of the Paris public aid hospital, recently warned that medical institutions in the French island where Paris is located and in many parts of France are facing a new dilemma: shortage of disposable plastic medical equipment, especially plastic products used for PCR detection of new coronavirus. If the shortage cannot be improved, it may limit the scale of new coronavirus detection in France.
The shortage of plastic medical products in France is due to the decrease of the supply of polypropylene, which is a global shortage. As the epidemic continues, many large chemical plants around the world were shut down for a time. Regional climate disasters have also exacerbated the production reduction of polypropylene. For example, the recent cold wave that hit Texas in the United States has led to the closure of many petrochemical plants, and it will take time to restart. These force majeure made it difficult for raw material suppliers to deliver on time, and the production line of medical plastic consumables had to be shut down.
At the same time, the global demand for plastic products shows explosive growth. The first is sanitary plastic products. In addition to medical equipment for detection and treatment of new coronavirus, plastics are also widely used in vaccines and related logistics. In addition, the consumption of disposable plastic food packaging is also increasing rapidly.
Supply constraints and surging demand have led to price increases, and European polymer union president Ron marsh observed that “the price of polypropylene in Europe has increased by 25% since early December 2020.”.It leads a rapid price rising to the Polypropylene-made products, PP woven bags, Non-woven fabric and pp woven fabric series products are included.
Plastic may trigger the next health crisis
From February 8 to 10, France held the annual meeting of the research group “polymer and ocean”. The group was jointly established by the French National Research Center, the French Institute for marine development and the national health and safety administration. It brought together more than 60 laboratories and 250 scientists with different backgrounds in France to explore the impact of plastics on the marine environment and human health.
The findings discussed at the annual meeting are worrisome. Ecotoxicologist ICA Paul Ponte of the National Research Center of France pointed out that the chemical toxicity of plastics in the ocean is twofold: on the one hand, plastic molecules repel water, and this hydrophobicity causes them to absorb pollutants in seawater like a sponge. Hydrocarbons, pesticides, metals and other pollutants adhere to plastics, and their content can be one million times higher than that of surrounding water; On the other hand, the toxicity comes from the additives of plastic products, including colorants, flame retardants and antioxidants, which contain many endocrine disruptors, such as phthalates and bisphenol A.
According to statistics, no less than 10 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the ocean every year. In the most polluted Mediterranean, there are up to one million pieces of plastic waste per square kilometer. These toxic plastics are broken and decomposed in the ocean, forming ubiquitous micro plastics. Whether it is plankton or large animals, the whole marine food chain will inevitably consume a lot of plastics, which reduces the ability of marine organisms to absorb food, makes their intestinal flora imbalance, and causes abnormal metabolism.
What’s more worrying is that the “plastic layer” in the ocean is forming a new ecosystem. Bacteria, viruses, micro fungi, protozoa, microalgae, invertebrates, crustaceans and other organisms have settled on large and small plastics, forming the so-called “biofilm” on their surfaces.
In 2016, two Dutch biologists found a large number of bacteria in the “plastic layer” of the ocean, including Vibrio, which is the representative of the bacteria causing cholera. In 2019, researchers found highly resistant bacteria in plastic waste collected near the Antarctic coast. This resistance is most likely due to the absorption of antibiotics in the water by the plastics on which the bacteria live. However, plastic has existed in the environment for a long time than biodegradable materials such as driftwood, and can move in a larger space, which may become a hotbed for breeding superbacteria, thus causing a new health crisis.
EU legislation: both prohibition and taxation
The harm of plastics is gradually known by the scientific community and the public, but the dependence on plastics is still difficult to reverse, and it is not easy to discard. The EU passed a bill in 2019, which stipulates that the use of disposable plastic products such as straws and tableware in EU countries will be banned from 2021. As a result of the epidemic, restaurants in major European countries are forbidden to provide hall food, and only take out business is allowed. The reporter observed in France that although the prohibition regulations have come into effect, the catering industry, which is hard to maintain, still widely uses disposable plastic products in takeout service.
If it’s idealistic to ban it completely, it’s more realistic to encourage plastic recycling through taxation. The EU decided to impose a plastic tax from January this year. The goal of this regulation is to urge the EU Member States to invest in the infrastructure of plastic recycling. Otherwise, the cost of Taxation will be calculated according to the calculated weight of the non recovered packages, which will be paid to the EU by the member states at the price of 800 euros / ton. This year, the total plastic tax of 27 EU Member States is about 6 billion euro.
Statistics show that the EU produces about 26 million tons of plastic waste every year, of which less than 30% is recycled. The EU hopes to increase the funds urgently needed for economic recovery through plastic tax, and urge countries to increase plastic recycling as soon as possible, so as to minimize the harm of plastic.