The coronavirus pandemic brought a lot of the world and its industries to a standstill. This is of course bad news for global economies, but it seems it’s had a somewhat positive effect on the environment and the speed of climate change.

It’s specifically had a positive impact on global CO2 emissions, which have fallen by 4.6%. This is one of the biggest declines since World War II, and is largely due to: the lack of travel, global lockdowns, closed workplaces, and a stop to a lot of mass production.

However, these positives also come with negatives. We may be seeing a reduction in air pollution and emissions, but the problem of waste is still very real. A problem that’s been exasperated with the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and outdoor socialising.

So, we’ve pulled together a few things we can all do to reduce our waste during this pandemic.

Invest in reusable face masks

Disposable face masks littering our parks and streets has become quite a common sight. But, even when they are put in the bin, they’re still having a negative effect on the environment. This is due to the fact that these disposable masks can’t be recycled as they’re considered medical waste.

So, a simple thing that everyone can do is to buy a reusable face mask. They’re widely available now and relatively cheap. Plus, it will save you money in the long run as repeat purchasing of disposable face masks will eventually add up.

Ditch the plastic gloves

Another item of PPE that some are incorporating into their lives is gloves. Now, the government hasn’t advised on the use of plastic gloves, as there is no real evidence to back their use by the public.

If anything, some scientists have actually advised against the use of gloves. They tend to give people a false sense of security, and can spread germs a lot more. For example, a person touching a surface whilst wearing gloves, then touching their face, is pretty much the same as touching their face with their actual hand. Any germs on that surface have been transferred onto the person.

And like disposable face masks, they also contribute significantly to the plastic waste and pollution problem. Therefore, it’s best we ditch the plastic gloves and remember to wash our hands thoroughly and regularly.


This one may seem like an obvious thing to say, but it can be easy to forgo recycling and generally reducing waste when we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. It simply doesn’t become a priority anymore. But it’s so important we keep recycling, so that we’re reducing the amount of waste going into landfill or incineration.

If you’re in Sheffield area and want to know where exactly to recycle certain items, have a look at this recycling search tool.

Home composting

One of the activities that many people took up in the height of lockdown is gardening and growing their own food. This can come with a lot of garden or food waste, which many people have specific recycling bins for. But, an alternative to this is to establish home composting.

It’s arguably a lot easier than recycling or throwing away your waste, and is hugely beneficial both for the wider environment and your garden. Composting enriches the soil, suppresses plant disease and pests, and more importantly increases biodiversity.

Invest in refillable sanitiser and soap dispensers

Another tip, which mostly applies to businesses, is to invest in refillable sanitiser and soap dispensers. The smaller disposable pump bottles of sanitiser or soap don’t last very long, especially with how much they’re in use in today’s climate. So, they end up being re-purchased again and again, which is just not economically or environmentally viable.

A better option is to invest in a long-term option that will benefit you in the long run money-wise, but also reduces the amount of plastic being wasted.