Environmental silver lining for COVID-19

It's been a trying time for society with people contracting the illness, some dying, and others being stood down from jobs with income for businesses significantly reduced. Mother nature, on the other hand, is having a well-deserved break. Pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen across continents as countries try to contain the spread of this new coronavirus. The world has transformed in the last few months. Many thousands have died, hundreds of thousands have been ill from the coronavirus, and for those that have not caught the disease way of life has changed significantly.


Clean waters in Venice due to the Covid-19 lockdown.


BBC reported that in Wuhan, China the streets are empty as the state implements a strict lockdown. Italy has seen the most extensive travel ban since the second World War II. London, a city that is normally alive with busy pubs, theatres and bars has been closed for weeks as people are told to stay home. Across the globe, flights have been cancelled and those that are able to, are staying home and practising social distancing in aid of flattening the curve and the rate of the virus spreading (1).

With a slow down of civilisation, we have seen emissions in China fall 25% since the start of the year (1). Coal use in China fell by 40% in the countries six largest power plants since the last quarter of 2019. This has led to the proportion of days with 'good air quality' being up by over 11% then at the same time last year in 337 cities across China according to their Ministry of Ecology and Environment. Europe has also seen environmental effects. Satellite images show nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions fading over northern Italy with a shared story in Spain and the United Kingdom (1).

As well as pollution levels improving, wildlife also seems to be benefitting from measures to reduce the spread of the virus. Venice, a popular tourist city in Northern Italy has had cruise ships stop and souvenir stalls close. Waterways in the city are now clear and shoals of tiny fish, scuttling crabs and multicoloured plant-life are being seen by locals (2). Gloria Beggiato, the owner of the Metropole Hotel a few steps from St Mark's square has a view over the Venice lagoon reported 'it is calm like a pond, because there are no more waves caused by motorised boats transporting day-tripper tourists'. Under the cities strict rules of self-containment to prevent the spread of the disease any travel is forbidden with the exception of walking for exercise or to buy food.

In the northern Indian state of Punjab locals are reacting with awe to seeing the Himalayan mountain range. This is now visible from more than 100 miles away due to reduced air pollution as a result of the countries coronavirus lockdown (4). In the city of Jalandhar and the area surrounding people have posted photos of the views from their homes. Some saying they have not seen the peaks of the Himalayas for decades. Manjit Kang said 'for the first time in almost 30 years (I) could certainly see the Himalayas due to India's lockdown clearing air pollution. Just amazing.' There has been a dramatic improvement in the air quality in recent weeks as industries were shut down, cars came off the roads, and airlines cancelled flights due to the pandemic. In Delhi alone, there was a 44% reduction in PM10 air pollution levels on the first day of restrictions (5). 85 cities across India have seen less air pollution in the first week of the nationwide lockdown.

As the coronavirus crisis changes the rhythm of urban life there are early signs that some animals are feeling comfortable to dwell in places where humans populate in large numbers. In Adelaide, Australia a kangaroo was spotted calmly bouncing around the CBD. In Nara Japan sika deer have wandered through city streets and subway stations. Raccoons have been spotted on the beach in an emptied San Felipe, Panama. In Barcelona, Boars are known to descend upon the city but locals are in awe at how the wild animals romp through the currently quiet and deserted streets (6).

In Australia, reducing numbers and flattening the curve is a priority. Businesses are finding ways to ensure customers are safe and able to reduce the likelihood of contracting the disease. Container Deposit Systems are helping to flatten the curve by ensuring customers can still return containers safely. At all operator depots, you are able to maintain safe social distance whilst processing your bottles for a refund. Each Automatic Redemption Terminal is at least 1.5 meters away from the next terminal. This means that you will be at least 1.5 meters from any other person operating a terminal. You will only need to touch the terminal home screen which is constantly sanitized. You simply then place your empty containers in the tray. The only thing you need to touch is your empty containers.

Scanning your barcoded ticket which is produced by the terminal automatically triggers the Cash Return Terminal to provide your refund. If you prefer not to handle cash, simply deposit the funds directly into your scheme account. Hand sanitizers are located in the depot and you use these to wash your hands after touching the keypad on the Cash Return Terminal.

Touching the screens are the only time you need to touch anything that requires you to wash your hands. Sanitizers are immediately available. Depot staff will ensure that if queuing to use the Automatic Redemption Terminal customers are maintaining appropriate social distance. Depot staff will also ensure customers are aware of the location of the sanitizing machines. In a depot using a Container Deposit System technology, staff do not need to handle empty containers that have been returned by customers. The containers returned by the customers have been managed without any direct contact by staff. Returning your containers to a recycling depot using container deposit system technology means you are in the cleanest environment. You and the people around you are being assisted by staff who have been trained to ensure your hygiene needs are being met. They will also assist with maintaining social distancing and excellent personal hygiene.

1. https://www.bbc.com/future/ article/20200326-covid-19-the- impact-of-coronavirus-on-the- environment

2. https://www.theguardian.com/ environment/2020/mar/20/ nature-is-taking-back-venice- wildlife-returns-to-tourist- free-city

3. https://www.abc.net.au/ news/2020-03-17/coronavirus- cases-data-reveals-how-covid- 19-spreads-in-australia/ 12060704

4. https://edition.cnn.com/ travel/article/himalayas- visible-lockdown-india-scli- intl/index.html

5. https://www.cpcb.nic.in/ air/NCR/jantacurfew.pdf

6. https://www.theguardian.com/ world/2020/mar/22/animals- cities-coronavirus-lockdowns- deer-raccoons