Mumbai: "While battling an ongoing evil, one often creates another monster" this saying is quite apt to the current situation of the increased use of plastic during lockdown. Helpers around the world are amicably creating plastic face shields as personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors, nurses, paramedics, police and frontline workers battling the COVID-19 pandemic while inadvertently generating tonnes of plastic waste as these shields are being disposed after certain use.
On one hand, considering the larger problem of the coronavirus pandemic, residents are voluntarily making plastic face shields at home as there is a huge demand among frontline workers. Kishore Mane, a paramedical staff at Cooper Hospital, Andheri said, "We dispose the plastic face shield at the end of the day as we do not want to take any risks. It is an important gear that protects us from the virus."
While another doctor at Nair Hospital, Mumbai Central said, "We require around 100 to 200 face shields every day because we have many patients walking in for testing and treatment. We are in close contact with a large number of patients so we have to discard the shields. We cannot reuse it."
Some workers are sanitising the face shields and reusing it four to five times but this reuse is limited too. Hemant Kadwadkar, a security guard said, "We are cleaning the shields, sanitising it and reusing it three to five times. But it is risky for doctors to reuse as they are working in close proximity with infected and affected patients."
Several homegrown cottage industries, resident groups, youngsters and volunteers in various pockets of Mumbai are working on finding a solution for disposal of these plastic face shields. Orko Roy, a youth from Kandivali who is making face shields at home, said, "We have not found a sustainable solution yet. We have a team which is working on the research end to find an alternative material to replace plastic or an eco-friendly way to dispose plastic. We are open to suggestions and ideas."
Apart from face shields, residents are frantically buying a lot of plastic packaged foodstuffs, frozen meat, water and cold drink bottles. Shopkeepers revealed the sale of wafer packets, biscuits, cold drinks and ready to cook foodstuff has increased considerably during lockdown. Meera Jain, a general store owner in Goregaon, said, "People are stocking up foodstuffs which are all packaged in plastic. Fast food stalls, restaurants or fresh food corners are not open so people are buying packaged frozen meat, ready to cook noodles, biscuits, snacks and cold drinks."
We are so focussed on dealing with the current problem that we are not realising the bigger problem we are creating for ourselves and others, said Sandesh Upadhay, an environmentalist. Upadhay highlighted, "How are we going to dispose all the plastic waste that we are creating? We are reading news about pollution levels decreasing and clean water bodies but simultaneously, plastic is a critical global problem without a solution. We got to do our bit to reduce our use even amidst the crucial time of a pandemic."