Plastic waste release caused by COVID-19 and its fate in the global ocean

Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.
Get full text


The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for single-use plastics that intensifies pressure on an already out-ofcontrol global plastic waste problem. While it is suspected to be large, the magnitude and fate of this pandemic-associated mismanaged plastic waste are unknown. Here, we use our MITgcm ocean plastic model to quantify the impact of the pandemic on plastic discharge. We show that 8.4 6 1.4 million tons of pandemic-associated plastic waste have been generated from 193 countries as of August 23, 2021, with 25.9 6 3.8 thousand tons released into the global ocean representing 1.5 6 0.2% of the global total riverine plastic discharge. The model projects that the spatial distribution of the discharge changes rapidly in the global ocean within 3 y, with a significant portion of plastic debris landing on the beach and seabed later and a circumpolar plastic accumulation zone will be formed in the Arctic. We find hospital waste represents the bulk of the global discharge (73%), and most of the global discharge is from Asia (72%), which calls for better management of medical waste in developing countries.

Author supplied keywords




Peng, Y., Wu, P., Schartup, A. T., & Zhang, Y. (2021). Plastic waste release caused by COVID-19 and its fate in the global ocean. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 118(47).

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free