PANDEMIC  POLLUTION.

The pandemic has changed how we live, especially in terms of waste.

Are you curious to know how?

About the Project

Purpose: 

This research project aimed to determine how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced waste habits among HRM residents, identify what is being done about the waste, and identify any problem areas that must be addressed.

Executive Summary:

Prior to the pandemic, Nova Scotia (NS) was a leader in waste diversion and generated the lowest amount of waste per capita nationally. However, the arrival of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) of Nova Scotia brought with it a new normal that influenced waste trends and habits. These influences and changes are highlighted in this research report.

This study found that during the pandemic, Canadians purchased more items in plastic packaging, as they were cheaper and considered as safer. The purchase, use, and disposal of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) items, such as gloves and masks, bound for landfills increased, adding stress to existing hazardous waste management streams. Waste stakeholder interviewees also reported increased disposal of single-use plastics, bottles, cardboard, and construction and demolition (C&D) materials, and increases in litter, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. The interviewees also confirmed observing increases in residential and curbside waste tonnage and decreases in commercial/institutional waste. Several waste stakeholders confirmed that the pandemic affected waste programming initiatives. Interviewees confirmed that their organizations released educational messaging to counter some of the negative waste impacts brought on by the pandemic. Messaging was successful in some instances, as desired behavior changes were achieved. For example, Halifax Water asked the public to stop flushing gloves and wipes and observed a decrease in clogged impellers after their messaging. Surveys completed by 89 respondents demonstrated strong pro-environmental attitudes, which may help to explain the receptiveness to messaging.

Interviewees highlighted that reducing PPE litter and waste and reflecting health and safety in waste messaging are priorities moving forward. Research findings suggest that stakeholders should research strategies, such as feedstock recycling or improve current plastic waste-handling strategies to divert pandemic-related waste from landfills. Other recommendations include making PPE items out of bioplastics and creating messaging that advocates for behavioural changes by providing accessible and factual information.

 

About the researcher (Olivia Giansante), the project and Dalhousie University: 

Olivia is a graduate student at Dalhousie University pursuing a Master of Resource & Environmental Management. She is originally from Montreal and has been living and studying in Nova Scotia for the last three years. Dr. Michelle Adams at Dalhousie University, and Alexa Goodman, founder and director of Stop Trashing It Network, supervised this project. This project came about because Olivia was concerned about the health repercussions of the pandemic. However, she was also worried that this emergency would take focus away from environmental stewardship, which should require equally as much attention, and wanted to bring light to easy ways that we could continue to live through this pandemic while being conscious of our environmental impact. 

 

Questions? Email Olivia at oliviagiansante@dal.ca​

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