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Effects of COVID-19 may be improving air quality but increasing plastic waste
VANCOUVER -- While public health, businesses and the economy have all been impacted during the COVID-19 crisis, the environment has also felt effects from the pandemic.
CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, Stephen Cornish, told CTV Morning Live Friday that with more people working from home or going out less, traffic has decreased and with that, air pollution.
"We've seen that people with asthma and other lung impairments are showing up at hospitals less and reporting that they're not having symptoms," he said.
Cornish said people choosing to walk or cycle instead of driving has also helped, not just with the environment, but also with physical and mental health.
And for wildlife, some recent close encounters – such as a humpback whale sighting in Burrard Inlet – have led some to wonder if animals are feeling more comfortable exploring with fewer people out.
"We've certainly seen wildlife taking spaces back. We've had orca right here in English Bay, but we don't know scientifically yet if (COVID-19 has) had a big effect," Cornish said.
"If we bring nature back, it will play services that will help us and help the extinction crisis that we're witnessing at the same time."
But the impacts haven't all been positive, Cornish said. For example, many stores aren't allowing customers to bring in their reusable shopping bags anymore and restaurants are resorting to single-use items.
"This is really creating a huge waste challenge," Cornish said.
"There's going to be mountains of plastic and paper waste. We need to reduce first and then reuse and only third recycle.
"But right now we just have a real big problem on our hands and we're going to have to work together to get our way through that."
Even so, Cornish said he thinks the pandemic has shown people just how quickly nature can adapt.
"If we hang on to some of these things in the post-COVID world, then we might be able to build a better environment and a more just place for us and keep room in our heart for nature," he said.
"We wouldn't have thought we could several months back, but now we see that it's possible."
Watch the full interview with Stephen Cornish above.