Single-use plastic (SUP) has long been considered an environmental hazard since it is not widely recyclable. It’s use has also been recommended to avoid as a food container since it can leach toxins into food and the environment. However, in the battle against COVID-19, single-use plastic has become one of the heroes. SUP is made of Polypropylene, a thermoplastic polymer commonly used in the materials of personal protection equipment (PPE), protecting doctors and other health workers from the deadly Coronavirus disease.
The use of SUP has been steadily declining until a few months ago when the demand for the product nearly doubled as a result of the virus. Large volumes of PPE is now needed to protect against the spread of COVID-19 in hospitals and by all other front line workers.
Many medial personal protection products are made of single-use plastic such as, N-95 masks, face shields, gloves, gowns and head covers. Currently the shortage of PPE is forcing healthcare workers to use single-use PPE, repeatedly. They are also having to use alternative safety gear made of plastic water jars, plastic sheets, plastic laundry bags and garbage bags to protect themselves from exposure.
With the demand still strong within the hospitals, coupled with masks being required to enter some grocery stores and national chains, the use of single-use plastics will likely increase moving forward. In fact, global demand for polypropylene is foretasted to grow to 120 MMT by 2030.