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Covid-19 and its impact on the environment

By Bertie Lourens 12th May 2020 Waste Management

The Corona-virus is all and everything we read about these days. Most of it is bad news. But there is a silver lining for Mother Earth. For the first time in a very long time, the planet is starting to exhale and heal. In the midst of a human crisis, the pandemic is highlighting the benefits of sustainable industries and clean energy, and helping us to make more mindful consumer choices as individuals. So here’s some good news that Corona can take credit for, and here’s how we can be kinder to the planet going forward.

The skies are cleaner

Normally, air pollution causes about 4.6 million premature deaths annually worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. But satellite evidence from the European Space Agency (ESA) reveals a dramatic drop in atmospheric nitrous oxide - as much as 56% in cities like Madrid, Spain. Due to the temporary shutdown of factories and airports, China’s carbon emissions in February saw a drop of 25% - an amount that is equivalent to more than half the annual emissions of the UK alone. Thanks to some smog-free skies in Punjab, India, residents are able to view the Himalayas 100 miles in the distance, for the very first time. Cleaner skies are arguably a temporary reality. But nonetheless, they are a welcome reprieve for our health and wellbeing, and a planet under unsustainable duress. 

Considering air pollution statistics alongside the slow lifting of lockdown restrictions, it's important for businesses and individuals to keep the Carbon Tax bill (effective July 2019) in mind. Business owners and large organisations are reminded of their impact on the environment pertaining to their carbon emissions and the overall impact on the environment. As a company that really cares, WastePlan have combined an e-book to help business owners ensure that their company
complies with the new bill as well as seeing what's in store for your businesses. Download the Carbon Tax eBook for more information. 

The case for renewables is stronger

The rapid plummet into recession has revealed the depth of our financial fragility on global and national scales. Much of this volatility within the global economy is owing to an over-reliance on fossil fuels. The rise and fall of the oil industry has governments by the throat, compelled to rise and fall at their volatile pace. If anything, Covid-19 is causing investors to reconsider not just the ecological, but the economic benefits of renewable sources like solar, wind and hydro power.

Unlike oil and gas, renewable energy is believed to offer more stable cash flows from underlying assets,  says Dr Charles Donovan, Executive Director of the Centre for Climate Finance and Investment at London’s Imperial College Business School. Donovan said. He adds, “The relative stability of renewable energy that’s fully contracted, that already has power purchase agreements ... should make it immune from deterioration.” 

Of course, this is part of a bigger unfolding story, which requires policy overhauls and major economic restructuring. But the past couple months may have already done some of that inevitable overhauling for us. Radical reinvesting may be less radical than we think.

The individual is being called to action 

If there’s another benefit to these times, it’s that we have seen, our micro decisions can bring macro change. We can make a tangible difference by adopting better habits and greener lifestyles. 

Here are some of those ‘big small’ things’ you can do to keep your little pocket of the planet breathing after lockdown:

  • Compost

As much as one half of all food is wasted. This means not only the food itself is squandered, but the resources that went into growing or making it. What’s more, food waste produces a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. 

Composting combats the curve by converting your waste into a nutrient-rich, reusable resource. Composting is not only educational and fun for the family at home, it can be an additional income source for your business.

  • Eat your greens

Mom knows best, right? But Mom probably didn’t know the half of it when she was pushing the spinach. As it stands, agriculture is the direct driver of roughly 80 percent of tropical deforestation, 70% of which is reserved for cattle grazing and feeding. Enjoy your braai, for sure. But make mindful decisions around your meat sources, when and if possible. Consider a little less meat and some home-grown veggies too. 

  • Recycle, recycle, recycle

You’ve heard it before from us, no doubt. But the growing market for recyclable goods, along with the rebate you receive for recyclables sold, translate into real savings for your bottom line. By lightening your waste to landfill, you’re ensuring the company stays compliant with current legislation, and moving the needle towards sustainability.


Keen to know how you can capitalise on Covid-19 disruption and find your greener, innovative edge? Contact us to learn more.

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Bertie Lourens

Author Bertie Lourens

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