Coronavirus Jitters Rattle Businesses, Industries, Organizations — 2020 Olympics, Airlines Included
Efforts to contain the Wuhan coronavirus and fears that it can spread and form a global pandemic have slowed industries around the world.
Shipping is delayed, cars and electronics are stalled on the assembly line, and commodity markets around the world are predicting losses because of the virus. Fears around the virus even have Olympic officials worried that it could impact Tokyo's planning for the summer games scheduled for the end of July, according to CNN.
In Japan, 45 people have been infected with the novel virus so far, including 20 on a Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Yokohama, Japan.
"I am extremely worried that the spread of the infectious disease could throw cold water on the momentum toward the Games," Toshiro Muto, chief executive of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, said according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, as CNN reported. "I hope that it will be stamped out as soon as possible."
While the Olympics are nearly six months away, a more immediate impact is felt in global shipping which has faced a slowdown because of the coronavirus, according to CNN Business.
Nearly 80 percent of the world's goods are transported by sea and China is home to seven of the 10 busiest container ports. Nearby, Singapore and South Korea also have large ports.
The lockdown on certain cities and worries over the virus spreading means factories are shut and dockworkers are staying home. That stops many durables like cars and machinery as well as apparel and other consumer staples from getting shipped around the world, meaning the disruption could reach far beyond China, according to CNN Business.
Car manufacturer Hyundai has already suspended production at a South Korea plant because it can't get the parts it needs.
"A closure of the world's manufacturing hub impacts container shipping at large, as it is a vital facilitator of the intra-Asian and global supply chains," Peter Sand, chief shipping analyst at BIMCO, an international shipping association, said to CNN Business. "This will affect many industries and limit demand for containerized goods transport."
The mobile device industry is already feeling the effects. Just this week, industry giants LG and ZTE both announced that they would skip parts or all of the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona this month, according to The Verge.
"With the safety of its employees and general public foremost in mind, LG has decided to withdraw from exhibiting and participating in MWC 2020 later this month in Barcelona, Spain. This decision will prevent needlessly exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel, which most health experts have advised," an LG spokesperson said in a statement given to The Verge.
While global industries try to protect themselves from the coronavirus, it may have a positive effect on emissions. Airlines are cancelling flights between China and the U.S., as well as between Hong Kong and the U.S., according to CNN Travel. There has been a 30 percent decrease in flights to and from China. Key international airlines including British Airways, Lufthansa, American Airlines, United Airlines, Swiss International Air Lines and Austrian Airlines, suspended or reduced flights due to the outbreak, according to S&P Global.
That has led to a decrease in oil demand, sending the price of crude oil plummeting. There has also been sharp declines in the price of liquid natural gas, palm oil, copper and iron. The reduced demand may actually be a boon to emissions targets.
S&P Global noted that even a one percent drop in China's annual CO2 emissions from energy consumption would amount to 96 million metric tons of carbon removed from the atmosphere, which is equivalent to France's annual regulated CO2 emissions.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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