Impact of Covid-related Plastic Waste – Case of Sri Lanka

Jayasinghe, Rohantha Rukshan, Lythgoe, Daniel, Liyanage, Champika Lasanthi orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-6687-3611, Williams, Karl S orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2250-3488 and Halwatura, Rangika (2021) Impact of Covid-related Plastic Waste – Case of Sri Lanka. In: National Conference on COVID 19: Impact, Mitigation, Opportunities and Building Resilience, 27-28 January 2021, BMICH, Colombo.

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The global impact of plastic pollution and its detrimental impact on both the environment and human health is widely acknowledged. Due to the global pandemic there is the added concern of COVID-19 contaminated plastic waste (CPW), adding further threats to human health. COVID-19 has impacted on how plastic is consumed worldwide. In the current context, single-use plastics refers to: personal protective equipment, plastic drinking bottles and bags. These are seen as a COVID
safe alternative by many stakeholders; however, these items are ending up in the natural environment. Sri Lanka was already one of the top 5 worst offenders for releasing plastic pollution into the environment (pre-COVID). As a low-middle income country, it lacks adequate local waste treatment infrastructure along with economic incentives to accept plastic waste from other nations. The increase in CPW is a challenge for existing waste stream processing due to the added factor of potential virus contamination. This, adds a further complication to countries with inadequate waste management and policies. The global focus is currently on slowing down COVID-19 spread. Once many
countries re-open for ‘business’, the ripple effect of COVID-19 on plastic pollution
will be more apparent but it may be too late and too overwhelming to effectively
respond. Addressing the issue now is strategically important in order to reduce the
overall negative effects of CPW on a global scale. The focus of the paper has
identified the impact of the COVID and how people deal with CPW in Sri Lanka.

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