Nils Johansson (Strategic Sustainability Studies, KTH Royal Institute of Technology)
COVID-19 is a disaster. Over two million people have died. And, as noted by Anthony Oliver-Smith (1999), disasters are never merely natural, but also social. There is much debate about how to organize societies to protect citizens from the pandemic, without too much negative impact on citizens, and there are large uncertainties, both in relation to the overall strategies (for example, the level of societal shut-down) and the practical guidelines (Manderson and Levine 2020). Despite the uncertainties, measures to tackle the pandemic are presented to citizens as clear and indisputable. In the space between uncertainty and clarity, there is room for the political, in terms of, for example, lobbyism. Although many things have stopped during the pandemic, politics have not (Hannah et al. 2020). Many of the strategies presented as medically valid are inherently political (Esposito 2020); for example, based on political trade-offs between rich and poor, young and old, white and black, health and the economy (Horton 2020). Or, the political conflict this Intervention will focus on, between health and the environment.
This Intervention focuses on the political side of how society was once again thrown back into single-use plastics during the COVID-19 pandemic. The political dimension of the reintroduction of plastics during the pandemic has previously been highlighted online in magazines, on podcasts and in videos (Dey and Michael 2020; Heiges and O’Neill 2020; Krigier 2020; Sonali 2020). However, these texts seem to have primarily uncovered the plastic lobbyism during the pandemic, rather than taking an interest in the political discourse as such and how the conflict between environmental and medical concerns have been debated in relation to reusables and disposables during the pandemic. The empirical material I present here is extracted from English-language media during 2020. It will be analysed based on Naomi Klein’s (2007) notion of “disaster capitalism”. According to Klein, the government typically exploits uncertainties and disorder during a disaster to implement corporate-friendly agendas that would otherwise meet opposition. In this way, the unthinkable may during a crises become possible.
Single-Use Plastic and COVID-19
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, our dependence of disposable plastics was in focus. For example, the European Union launched a strategy for sustainable plastic management and a directive to regulate single-use plastics. Nearly 150 countries, including, for example, China, India, the UK, Sweden, Kenya, South Africa and several states in the US have implemented bans or taxes to phase out disposable plastic with a focus on plastic bags (da Costa et al. 2020). Social entrepreneurs developed and opened up to alternatives to disposable plastics. Norms and habits deeply rooted in our consumer culture were changing. Plastic started to become shameful (The Guardian 2019), at least among the middle class in the global North.
However, during COVID-19, the use of disposable items and in particular of disposable plastics has increased (Adyel 2020; Parashar and Hait 2021; Silva et al. 2020a; Vanapalli et al. 2020). This is clearest in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves. However, the use of disposable items has increased throughout society. Home deliveries have increased, which brings additional protective materials. Food is not primarily eaten in restaurants, but taken home in disposable materials. In grocery stores, sales of packaged food have increased, which is increasingly carried home in plastic bags.
The single-use items, such as PPE, are largely made of plastic and are too easily lost to the environment (see Figure 1). Most plastics are not broken down, but broken apart into smaller parts. Microplastics are now found everywhere, although mass production has only been ongoing for 70 years (Geyer et al. 2017).
However, the use and discarding of single-use items differs between regions, not least under COVID-19. For example, in Italy, the use of facemasks is estimated at one billion per month, while it is significantly lower in more populated countries such as the UK (Parashar and Hait 2021), possibly due to the British advice on reusable masks (e.g. Greater London Authority 2020). There are also major differences in the handling of disposables during the pandemic. For example, in South Africa, littering has decreased due to curfews (Ryan et al. 2020), but seems to have increased in other places such as the UK (BBC News 2020a) and Canada (Ammendolia et al. 2021), due to increased socializing in public places.
Furthermore, there have been reports during the pandemic from less economically developed countries of increased waste disposal in open dumps (Parashar and Hait 2021; Urban and Nakada 2020). The input of recycled plastic in disposables has also decreased, due to falling oil prices during the pandemic closures (Adyel 2020). In addition, disposable facemasks are difficult to recycle due to the mixture of different types of materials. This means that even if the disposables are handled correctly, there is a risk of adding to global warming through waste incineration.
Despite regional differences, the use and acceptance of disposables has generally increased during the pandemic (Adyel 2020; Parashar and Hait 2021; Silva et al. 2020a; Vanapalli et al. 2020). This change can be traced to the return of a mid-20th century anxiety at the beginning of the pandemic, based on reusables as unhygienic and risky (Laitala and Klepp 2018). Disposable materials, especially plastics, were on the other hand represented as the responsible, clean and hygienic choice (Dey and Michael 2020).
These ideas can be seen in articles (e.g. Britschgi 2020; The Wall Street Journal 2020; Tierney 2020; Witt and Gurkov, 2020) in early 2020 from conservative opinion leaders and what the Guardian calls “rightwing thinktanks” (McVeigh 2020) such as the Manhattan Institute. These articles were based on studies that in various ways demonstrated an increased spread of infection from reusable products. One of the most cited studies in these articles (Klick and Wright 2012) showed that the number of reported illnesses and deaths related to foodborne bacteria increased in San Francisco County relative to other places after it introduced a ban on plastic bags.
These ideas were broadly picked up by the media, business, lobbyists, the public, trade unions and policy-makers. In the US, the Plastics Industry Association (2020a, 2020b) called in March for authorities to (re)classify plastics as an essential industry during the pandemic and “stop the rush to ban” plastic bags. Proclaiming single-use plastics as not just the safest choice during the pandemic, but “literally … the difference between life and death”. Likewise, in the UK, the British Plastic Federation (2020) asked members of parliament to recognise “key parts of the plastics sector as critical infrastructure” during the pandemic. Furthermore, at the EU-level, the trade association European Plastics Converters (2020) proposed to the European Commission that the implementation of the single-use plastics directive should be postponed. The reason was that “this ‘political’ piece of legislation … only reflected on littering aspects” and did not take into account “the hygienic consequences”.
As a result, the attitude towards single-use plastics seems to have increased and the public support for banning disposable plastic decreased in, for example, Canada (AAL 2020) and Poland (Grodzińska-Jurczak et al. 2020). A retail workers’ union in Chicago protested against “the disease-transmitting bag tax” (Flaccus 2020), while America’s largest food and retail union encouraged shoppers to “use store-provided plastic bags” (UFCW 2020). Large chains such as Starbucks (Evans 2020), McDonald’s (Wilkie and Smith 2020) and Hy-Vee (Silverstein 2020) refused in some regions to accept reusable items such as coffee cups and shopping bags. In both the global North and South, bans and taxes on disposable plastics were postponed or paused. For example, in Senegal, the ban on sachets intended to be used for packaging water and other beverages was suspended (Ngounou 2020). In several US states, reusable bags for shopping were banned (Silva et al. 2020a). In Scotland, the implementation of a deposit refund system for plastic bottles was delayed (BBC News 2020b).
The Fight Back
Greenpeace USA (2020) launched a research brief in late March 2020, which highlighted the propaganda behind the reintroduction of disposable plastics in the United States. The intertwined networks of plastic producers, consultants, opinion leaders, lobbyists and researchers were uncovered. Greenpeace showed also that many of the referenced studies were based on analysis of bacteria rather than viruses from the corona families. The validity of these studies for the COVID-19 pandemic was further elaborated and criticized in scientific journals. For example, Hale and Song (2020) argued that the referenced studies were “of questionable applicability” to support the argument against reusable bags. Not only due to the focus on bacteria, but also since samples were taken from the inside of the bags.
To turn the debate, Greenpeace International (2020) initiated a petition signed by health experts around the world, stating that reusable products, including bags, do not increase the spread of the virus, if they are handled correctly. The virus can be easily inactivated on surfaces with household disinfectants (Kampf et al. 2020). Furthermore, it became clear that “sterile” single-use plastics could be contaminated; for example, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of protective gloves closed after an internal outbreak of COVID-19 (Muthiah 2020). Even more importantly, an increasing number of studies showed that the virus spreads not primarily on materials such as food or bags but via respiratory droplets in the air.
The uncovering of the plastics lobby as well as updated studies on the spread of COVID-19 were widely picked up and circulated by the media, researchers, and decision-makers. The request to postpone the directive on disposable plastics was rejected by the European Commission (Schaart 2020). Several companies as well as US states have, once again, allowed reusable products in stores (Mace 2020). Many US states have also reintroduced plastic bag bans, often according to their original plans.
It should be noted that the reintroduction of bans on disposables has been accepted without much protest, despite the continued spread of COVID-19. This indicates that the anxiety around reusables in general and bags in particular has partly diminished. The discussion on the potential of reuse to spread COVID-19 seems thus to have been rebalanced and perhaps even closed. As a council member in a local municipality in Alaska put it, during a vote to reinstate the bag ban, “I think a lot of those [initial] questions have been answered” (quoted in Pacer 2020).
COVID-19 brought issues of infection and hygiene to the top of the political agenda. This offered the plastics lobby an opportunity to argue for disposables from a hygiene perspective rather than an environmental perspective, a fight that had previously been lost.
By exploiting uncertainty during the pandemic, lobby groups, conservative opinion leaders and think tanks succeed in reframing single-use plastics from an environmentally immoral material, before COVID-19, to a clean and protective material, under COVID-19. The consequences were huge. Several political decisions against disposable plastic bags were rolled back, while a positive attitude toward, and use of, disposables increased in many societies.
Uncertainty during the pandemic was used as a corporate political strategy (Hillman and Hitt 1999) to change attitudes and policies in favour of disposable plastics. In an act of disaster capitalism (Klein 2007), COVID-19 was thus exploited to win back the earlier regulatory and attitude losses. This political ambition was explicitly declared by a news provider for the European plastics industry, Plasteurope (2020): “Due to the virus, some or all of these bans may end up on the rubbish heap of history”.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates, however, that disaster capitalism does meet resistance. In this case, Greenpeace USA (2020) activists who uncovered the lobbyism and enrolled a network of support for reuse initiated the opposition. By signing the on-line petition, researchers and others showed a calming consensus towards reusables and that there was no explicit conflict between environmental and medical considerations during the pandemic.
The example of single-use plastic demonstrates that political systems are vulnerable to lobbying during crises (Klein 2007). Lobby groups and opinion leaders will exploit the political gap that naturally opens up in a disaster – the gap between the inherent uncertainties of how to handle the disaster, on the one side, and the need for clear and indisputable responses for the public, on the other. Therefore, we need to pay attention to peripheral issues during the pandemic that are indirectly affected by the crisis. And, as noted many times before, activists and scholars need to work together. Resources are needed to uncover lobbying as well as enrol large networks to distribute knowledge, reduce uncertainty and, in the end, close the issue.
However, the collective resistance to plastics needs to continue, not primarily in relation to the pandemic, but to look closer at recycling as the contemporary solution to the plastic problem. The normal order of things before the pandemic was definitely not a desirable one. The implemented restrictions on disposable plastic cover only a small share of the total plastic flows. For example, in the US, the category “bags, sacks, and wraps” accounted for 12% of all plastic packages consumed by households in 2015 (EPA 2018). Furthermore, microplastics originate primarily from diffuse sources such as the dissipation from washing machines, car tires, and cosmetics (Padervand et al. 2020).
The overall strategy for big plastic flows is the “circular economy”, widely embraced by businesses and policymakers. However, recycling as a strategy may move focus away from the real problems, such as ever-growing consumption. At the same time, only 14% of all plastic packages are recycled (World Economic Forum 2016). The plastic that is recycled can hardly replace the virgin plastic made from oil, since it typically holds a lower quality. Hence, even if the recycling rate of plastic increases it may only end up on top of the well-functioning production of virgin plastic continuing as before (Johansson and Henriksson 2020).
Solving a problem by targeting waste management is less controversial than addressing production and consumption. Partly, since it shifts the responsibility away from business towards individuals and authorities, who are responsible for the nitty gritty of source separation and waste management, respectively. Indeed, bio-based plastics are discussed as a potential alternative mode of production. However, in practice, its market share is only 2% (Silva et al. 2020b). At the same time, bio-based plastic carries many uncertainness in relation to, for example, the quality of the material, its degradability in marine environments, and its climate impact (Briassoulis et al. 2019; Spierling et al. 2018).
To find a way forward, let’s turn to activists again. Since activists are situated outside the conventional, they may question the taken for granted and transform such interventions into alternative practices (Corvellec et al. 2018). For example, practices of care, repair, kindness, exchange, borrowing, sharing, mutual aid, frugality, or reduced consumption. These activities aim not at the material itself, and its composition of recycled or bio-based material, but at transforming the relationship between humans and materials.
 While others had voiced concerns about the plastics industry’s exploitation of COVID-19 (e.g. Kaufman 2020), Greenpeace USA (2020a) published one of the first focused, systematic analyses.
Adyel T M (2020) Accumulation of plastic waste during COVID-19. Science 369(6509):1314-1315
AAL (2020) “Plastic Food Packaging: Before and After COVID‑19.” Agri‑Food Analytics Lab, Dalhousie University https://www.dal.ca/sites/agri-food/research/plastic-food-packaging–before-and-after-covid-19.html (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Ammendolia J, Saturno J, Brooks A L, Jacobs S and Jambeck J R (2021) An emerging source of plastic pollution: Environmental presence of plastic personal protective equipment (PPE) debris related to COVID-19 in a metropolitan city. Environmental Pollution https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envpol.2020.116160
BBC News (2020a) Why litter is surging as lockdowns ease. 11 June https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200610-why-are-parks-full-of-litter-as-lockdown-eases (last accessed 18 December 2020)
BBC News (2020b) Coronavirus: Deposit return scheme delayed until July 2022. 16 March https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-51920357 (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Briassoulis D, Pikasi A, Briassoulis C and Mistriotis A (2019) Disintegration behaviour of bio-based plastics in coastal zone marine environments: A field experiment under natural conditions. Science of the Total Environment https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.06.129
British Plastic Federation (2020) BPF letter to government in response to coronavirus. 20 March https://www.politicshome.com/news/article/bpf-letter-to-government-in-response-to-coronavirus (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Britschgi C (2020) New York’s bad bag ban: Unintended consequences undermine the supposed environmental benefits. New York Daily News 6 March
Corvellec H, Ek R, Johansson N, Svingstedt A, Zapata P and Zapata Campos M J (2018) “Waste Prevention is about Effective Production and Thoughtful Consumption – Not about Waste.” Department of Service Management and Service Studies, Lund University https://portal.research.lu.se/portal/files/57941999/From_waste_management_to_waste_prevention_Final_report_in_English_August_2018.pdf (last accessed 25 January 2021)
da Costa J P, Mouneyrac C, Costa M, Duarte A C and Rocha-Santos T (2020) The role of legislation, regulatory initiatives, and guidelines on the control of plastic pollution. Frontiers in Environmental Science https://doi.org/10.3389/fenvs.2020.00104
Dey T and Michael M (2020) Driving home “single-use”: Plastic politics in the times of COVID-19. Discover Society 30 April https://discoversociety.org/2020/04/30/driving-home-single-use-plastic-politics-in-the-times-of-the-covid-19/ (last accessed 14 December 2020)
EPA (2018) “Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: 2015 Tables and Figures.” United States Environmental Protection Agency https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2018-07/documents/smm_2015_tables_and_figures_07252018_fnl_508_0.pdf (last accessed 25 January 2021)
Esposito R (2020) Cured to the bitter end. European Journal of Psychoanalysis http://www.journal-psychoanalysis.eu/on-pandemics-nancy-esposito-nancy/ (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Evans A (2020) Coronavirus: Starbucks bans reusable cups to help tackle spread. BBC News 6 March https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-51767092 (last accessed 14 December 2020)
European Plastics Converters (2020) A letter to Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission: “COVID-19 – request for a recast or postponement of the Single-Use Plastics Directive”. 8 April https://pieweb.plasteurope.com/members/pdf/p244923b.PDF (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Flaccus G (2020) Pandemic deals blow to plastic bag bans, plastic reduction. AP News 8 April https://apnews.com/article/b58cd897fb1275d8a4bdcb29528b4cce (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Geyer R, Jambeck J R and Law K L (2017) Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made. Science Advances DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1700782
Greenpeace International (2020) Over 125 health experts defend safety of reusables during COVID-19 pandemic. 22 June https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/43730/reusables-safety-covid-19-health-experts-statement/ (last accessed 11 December 2020)
Greenpeace USA (2020) “The Making of an Echo Chamber: How the Plastic Industry Exploited Anxiety about COVID-19 to Attack Reusable Bags.” Greenpeace Research Brief https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/The-Making-of-an-Echo-Chamber_-How-the-plastic-industry-exploited-anxiety-about-COVID-19-to-attack-reusable-bags-1.pdf (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Grodzińska-Jurczak M, Krawczyk A, Jurczak A, Strzelecka M, Boćkowski M and Rechciński M (2020) Environmental chocies vs. COVID-19 pandemic fear – plastic governance re-assessment. Society Register 4(2):49-66
Hale R C and Song B (2020) Single-use plastics and COVID-19: Scientific evidence and environmental regulations. Environmental Science and Technology 54(12):7034-7036
Hannah M G, Hutta J S and Schemann C (2020) Thinking through COVID-19 responses with Foucault: An initial overview. AntipodeOnline.org 5 May https://antipodeonline.org/2020/05/05/thinking-through-covid-19-responses-with-foucault/ (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Greater London Authority (2020) “Face Covering Guidance.” https://www.london.gov.uk/coronavirus/face-covering-guidance (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Heiges J and O’Neill K (2020) COVID-19 has resurrected single-use plastics – are they back to stay? Smithsonian Magazine 15 July https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/single-use-plastic-covid-180975312 (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Hillman A J and Hitt M A (1999) Corporate political strategy formulation: A model of approach, participation, and strategy decisions. Academy of Management Review 24(4):825-842
Horton R (2020) COVID-19 – a crisis of power. The Lancet 396(10260):1383
Johansson N and Henriksson M (2020) Circular economy running in circles? A discourse analysis of shifts in ideas of circularity in Swedish environmental policy. Sustainable Production and Consumption 23:148-156
Kampf G, Todt D, Pfaender S and Steinmann E (2020) Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. Journal of Hospital Infection 104(3):246-251
Kaufman L (2020) Plastics had been falling out of favor. Then came the virus. Bloomberg 15 March https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-15/plastics-had-been-falling-out-of-favor-then-came-coronavirus (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Klein N (2007) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Metropolitan Books
Klick J and Wright J D (2012) “Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness.” Research Paper No. 13-2, Institute for Law and Economics, University of Pennsylvania Law School
Krigier A (2020) Plastics in times of the coronavirus. Plastisphere Podcast 29 April https://anjakrieger.com/plastisphere/2020/04/29/ep-8-plastics-in-times-of-the-coronavirus/ (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Laitala K and Klepp I G (2018) Motivations for and against second-hand clothing acquisition. Clothing Cultures 5(2):247-262
Mace M (2020) McDonald’s joins TerraCycle’s Loop programme to trial reusable cups. edie 9 September https://www.edie.net/news/5/McDonald-s-joins-TerraCycle-s-Loop-programme-to-trial-reusable-cups/ (last accessed 14 December 2020
Manderson L and Levine S (2020) COVID-19, risk, fear, and fall-out. Medical Anthropology 39(5):367-370
McVeigh K (2020) Rightwing thinktanks use fear of COVID-19 to fight bans on plastic bags. The Guardian 27 March https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/27/rightwing-thinktanks-use-fear-of-covid-19-to-fight-bans-on-plastic-bags (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Muthiah W (2020) COVID-19: About 360 Top Glove employees taken by bus for treatment at hospitals after testing positive. The Star 23 November https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2020/11/23/covid-19-about-360-top-glove-employees-taken-by-bus-for-treatment-at-hospitals-after-testing-positive (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Ngounou B (2020) COVID-19 “contaminates” the anti-plastic law. Afrik21 27 April https://www.afrik21.africa/en/senegal-covid-19-contaminates-the-anti-plastic-law/ (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Oliver-Smith A (1999) “What is a disaster?”: Anthropological perspectives on a persistent question. In A Oliver-Smith and S M Hoffman (eds) The Angry Earth: Disaster in Anthropological Perspective (pp18-34). New York: Routledge
Pacer M (2020) City council votes to reinstate plastic bag ban. Peninsula Clarion 25 November https://www.peninsulaclarion.com/news/city-council-votes-to-reinstate-plastic-bag-ban/ (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Padervand M, Lichtfouse E, Robert D and Wang C (2020) Removal of microplastics from the environment: A review. Environmental Chemistry Letters 18:807-828
Parashar N and Hait S (2021) Plastics in the time of COVID-19 pandemic: Protector or polluter? Science of the Total Environment https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.144274
Plasteurope (2020) “Single-Use Plastics.” https://www.plasteurope.com/news/SINGLE-USE_PLASTICS_t244791/ (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Plastics Industry Association (2020a) Plastics industry “essential” as first line of defense with products to fight coronavirus. 20 March https://www.plasticsindustry.org/article/plastics-industry-essential-first-line-defense-products-fight-coronavirus?fbclid=IwAR1pg7pppGzq3aZRzgvbGoYBcZD-HjFUc8sgH0Hn_-nrfQzM4iDcwHWxYXI (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Plastics Industry Association (2020b) A letter from the Plastics Industry Association to the US Department of Health and Human Services. 18 March https://www.politico.com/states/f/?id=00000171-0d87-d270-a773-6fdfcc4d0000 (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Ryan P G, Maclean K and Weideman E A (2020) The impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on urban street litter in South Africa. Environmental Processes 7(4):1303-1312
Schaart E (2020) Timmermans dismisses call to lift single-use plastic bans. Politico 26 May https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/26/timmermans-dismisses-call-to-lift-single-use-plastic-bans-281751 (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Sonali K (2020) Plastics industry wants boost under cover of COVID-19. Rising Up With Sonali 24 March https://vimeo.com/400447601 (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Silva A L P, Prata J C, Walker T R, Duarte A C, Ouyang W, Barcelò D and Rocha-Santos T (2020a) Increased plastic pollution due to COVID-19 pandemic: Challenges and recommendations. Chemical Engineering Journal https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cej.2020.126683
Silva A L P, Prata J C, Walker T R, Campos D, Duarte A C, Soares A, Barcelò D and Rocha-Santos T (2020b) Rethinking and optimising plastic waste management under COVID-19 pandemic: Policy solutions based on redesign and reduction of single-use plastics and personal protective equipment. Science of the Total Environment https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140565
Silverstein S (2020) Hy-Vee says customer concerns spurred it to ban reusable bags. Grocery Dive 25 March https://www.grocerydive.com/news/hy-vee-says-customer-concerns-spurred-it-to-ban-reusable-bags/574851/ (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Spierling S, Knüpffer E, Behnsen H, Mudersbach M, Krieg H, Springer S, Albrecht S, Herrmann C, and Endres H-J (2018) Bio-based plastics-a review of environmental, social and economic impact assessments. Journal of Cleaner Production 185:476-491
The Guardian (2019) Problem in the bagging area: The plastic-shaming scheme that went very, very wrong. 11 June https://www.theguardian.com/environment/shortcuts/2019/jun/11/problem-in-the-bagging-area-the-plastic-shaming-scheme-that-went-very-very-wrong (last accessed 14 December 2020)
The Wall Street Journal (2020) The plastic bag ban backfires.16 March https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-plastic-bag-ban-backfires-11584399666 (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Tierney J (2020) Greening our way to infection. City Journal 12 March https://www.city-journal.org/banning-single-use-plastic-bags-covid-19 (last accessed 14 December 2020)
UFCW (2020) America’s largest food and retail union launches national coronavirus safety advertising campaign targeting all grocery shoppers. United Food and Commercial Workers International Union 22 April https://www.ufcw.org/press-releases/americas-largest-food-retail-union-launches-national-coronavirus-safety-advertising-campaign-targeting-all-grocery-shoppers/ (last accessed 26 January 2021)
Urban R C and Nakada L Y K (2020) COVID-19 pandemic: Solid waste and environmental impacts in Brazil. Science of the Total Environment https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142471
Vanapalli K R, Sharma H B, Ranjan V P, Samal B, Bhattacharya J, Dubey B K and Goel S (2020) Challenges and strategies for effective plastic waste management during and post COVID-19 pandemic. Science of the Total Environment https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141514
Wilkie K and Smith T (2020) McDonald’s BANS the use of reusable coffee cups in an attempt to stop the spread of killer coronavirus. Daily Mail Australia 11 March https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8098005/McDonalds-bans-use-reusable-coffee-cups-coronavirus-spreads.html (last accessed 14 December 2020)
Witt S and Gurkov C (2020) Clemson Professor says delay bag ban for coronavirus concerns. Kings County Politics 28 February https://www.kingscountypolitics.com/clemson-professor-says-delay-bag-ban-for-coronavirus-concerns/ (last accessed 14 December 2020)
World Economic Forum (2016) “The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the Future of Plastics.” http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf (last accessed 16 December 2020)