The positive and negative impacts of Coronavirus pandemic in the environment

With the advancement of the pandemic provoked by Coronavirus, many cities around the world adopted quarantine or campaigns stimulating people to not circulate without necessity.

The fall on the movement in big cities caused directed effects in the environment, like the decrease on the emission of pollutants in the atmosphere and the increasing of domestic and hospital waste generation.

Solid waste

According to ABRELPE, it is estimated that, because of the adopted quarantine, isolation and social distancing it can have a relevant increase in the generated quantity of domestic solid waste (15-25%) and a considerable growing in the generation of hospital waste in health care units (10 to 20 times).

For situations correspondent to the hospital waste generation in health care units the orientations are very specific and follow the current rules. The waste must be packaged in a red bag, that must be substituted when they reach 2/3 of its capacity or at least once each 48 hours, identified by the symbol of infective substance; the bags with these waste must have specialized collection and transportation by the Health Service Waste (Resíduos de Serviços de Saúde – RSS, in Portuguese) and submitted to licensed treatment processes, before its final disposal.

People that were confirmed positive to COVID-19 or that are in quarantine (symptoms or suspect) must stop separating the domestic trash to the selective collect; all the waste generated in the house must be discarded on the same recipient (common trash); the packaging must be done with the use of two resistant plastic bags (one inside the other), certifying that both are properly closed (ties or seals); present the bags to the collection on the day and time determined in your localization; maintain the pets away from the disposable materials.

To the people that had no confirmation to COVID-19 or that are not in a mandatory quarantine, the recommendation is that they continue doing the separation of the materials to the selective collect, used masks and gloves must be discarded on normal trash; maintain the waste packaging adequately so that the urban cleaning workers have no contact with any discarded material; present the bags to the collection on the day and time determined in your localization.

To know more about which are the packaging and the colors to the correct separation of Health Service Waste (Resíduos de Serviços de Saúde – RSS, in Portuguese), download our e-book:

Atmospheric emissions

The factories and trade closing, besides the traveling restrictions to deal with the virus dissemination resulted on a reduction of pollutant emissions in the atmosphere.

With quarantine since March 24th, as a way to stop the new Coronavirus, the indexes of atmospheric pollution in the city of São Paulo reduced about 50% in only one week. It can be seen in the comparison of atmospheric data released by the Environmental Company in São Paulo State (Companhia Ambiental do Estado de São Paulo – CETESB, in Portuguese) between March 15th to 21st and March 22nd to 28th.

In Europe it was not different, cities like Brussels, Paris, Madrid, Milan and Frankfurt had a decrease on the medium levels of nitrogen dioxide between March 5th and 25th in comparison with the same period last year.

Data from the European Environmental Agency (EEA) revealed that in Madrid, the medium levels of nitrogen dioxide retreated 56% in the weekly comparison after the Spanish government prohibited not essential trips after March 14th.

In Milan, the concentration of nitrogen dioxide polluting gas decreased 24% in the previous four weeks to March 24th, according to EEA.

Although temporary, the changes can cause a positive effect in the pollutant emission annual balance on these cities.

Electricity and fuel consumption

According to the National Operator of the Electric System (Operador Nacional do Sistema Elétrico – ONS, in Portuguese), the electricity consumption started to point out some retraction signals on March 19th, when it was 2,3% below than the verified one week before. On Sunday (March 22nd), the fall was 8,9% on the same comparison basis.

Thereby, it also fell the necessity of hydroelectric generation, what enables the recovering on the level of the reservoir storage. On Sunday, the power plants on the Southeast and Midwest region had 48,7% of its capacity. One month ago, it was 37,5%. 

The energy charge of the interconnected electric system in Brazil must have a retreat of 8,1% in April, according to ONS.

According to a National Federation of Retail Fuel and Lubricants – Fecombustíveis (Federação Nacional do Comércio Varejista de Combustíveis e Lubrificantes, in Portuguese), the gas stations are also feeling the effects of the isolation measures.

On Thursday (March 19th), the sales in São Paulo were 39% below than the historical average to the city. In Goiania, the fall was 42%; in Porto Alegre, 26% and in Belo Horizonte, 19%.

The relief will probably be momentary, and its cause is bad news. But the reduction of emissions and fossil gas consumption can end up being really significant to the environment annual balances.


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