Comment: COVID-19 test kits could create huge plastic waste problem

Global data is hard to find because not all countries report kit use, but the world had used at least 3,631,464,074 kits as of December 15, bringing total emissions to date to 81,708 tonnes of CO2.

This would be the equivalent of the annual emissions of 17,000 people on average.

These 17,000 people represent only 0.0002% of the world’s population. The CO2 figures are therefore not large enough to be concerned about, especially when compared to the much larger scale of the rest of our emissions.

However, they can serve as a good indication that everything we do has an impact on the climate and that the impacts of COVID-19 could be even greater than we think.


This very basic analysis also does not take into account the disposal of waste from used kits, or the intensive use of disinfectants, or the detritus created by masks and other personal protective equipment.

In the UK, home test devices should be thrown in the regular trash, which means the best option to minimize the environmental footprint is a waste-to-energy plant so you can generate electricity at from the combustion of waste.

However, many parts of the world classify test kits as medical waste, and as such must be burned in incinerators without any options for energy recovery.

George Loumakis is a lecturer in energy at the Caledonian University of Glasgow. This comment first appearance on La Conversation.

Bryce K. Locke