From travel bans to stay-at-home orders, measures to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 have disrupted life on a global scale. In April, around the world there was a near 80% decrease in flights1 and in the United States, road travel reached lows of 73%2. This lull of human activity resulted in a 17% reduction in daily CO₂ emissions around the world in early April3.

After all the health and economic devastation, this sudden decrease in emissions may seem like a sign of hope. However, we must also consider the amount of waste COVID-19 is generating as the preservation of public health takes precedence. This year, the global market for disposable hospital supplies is predicted to grow 25%. Additionally, as an added precaution, many grocery stores are not allowing reusable bags which increases the use of single-use plastic.

It is difficult to determine the true impact of COVID-19 on the environment. However, it is important to recognize that the positive changes that are occurring are not due to any lasting shift in human behavior. Hopefully, the allure of blue skies and fresh air brought by reduced emissions serve as a wakeup call. Human activity causes incessant environmental distress and the way to rectify that is through deep-rooted change.

Source: Carbon Brief

1 Brian Pearce, COVID-19 Updated Impact Assessment, International Air Transport Association, April 14, 2020,
2 U.S. Travel Association, COVID-19 Travel Industry Research,
3 Corinne Le Quéré et al., Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement, Nature Climate Change, May 19, 2020,
4 The Business Research Company, Disposable Hospital Supplies Global Market Report, July 2020,

About the Author:

Kendall Harrow has been the VanEck Marketing Communications Intern for summer 2020. She is entering her junior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is majoring in Business Administration and minoring in Sustainability Studies. At UNC, she is involved in Carolina Thrift, a student-run organization that hosts an annual thrift sale of used items. She is also the creator of UNC Style Switch which connects college women at UNC and allows them to rent out clothes to one another.

The article above is an opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of MV Index Solutions or its affiliates.