COVID-19 pandemic: Solid waste and environmental impacts in Brazil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


© 2020 Elsevier B.V. The World Health Organization has recently declared South America the new epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Brazil has become one of the most affected countries. Besides public health and economic impacts, social isolation has also caused indirect environmental effects. The aim of this study was to assess environmental impacts caused by shifts on solid waste production and management due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Brazil. We have analyzed data from 30 cities, representing a population of more than 53.8 million people (25.4% of the Brazilian population). Unexpectedly, solid waste production in the main cities in Brazil has decreased during the social isolation period, possibly because of reduced activity in commercial areas. The latest data on solid waste in Brazil have revealed that more than 35% of medical waste has not been treated properly. Furthermore, improper disposal of facemasks has been reported in several cities and may increase the risk for COVID-19 spread. The suspension of recycling programs has hindered natural resources from being saved, with emphasis on 24,076 MWh of electric power and 185,929 m3 of potable water – respectively enough to supply 152,475 households and 40,010 people, over a month. Furthermore, total sale price for recyclable materials during the suspension of recycling programs reaches more than 781 thousand dollars, being these materials disposed in landfills – demanding an extra volume of 19,000 m3 – reducing landfill lifespan, and hence causing a double loss: economic and environmental.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 10 Feb 2021

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