MOST Northern Rivers cafes have stopped accepting reusable coffee cups in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19, and supermarkets are encouraging customers to buy plastic bags rather than bring their own to stores.
So, what effect will this reversion to single-use plastics have on wildlife and the environment?
Olly Pitt from Australian Seabird Rescue Inc in Ballina says it’s too soon to see the ramifications, but time will tell.
“It will definitely have an effect on wildlife,” Ms Pitt said.
“It depends on how quickly we can go back to our plastic-free community.
“It’s a shame because we were getting so good, but it is what it is, human health is important.”
She said in some ways, the post-COVID-19 world has allowed people to make eco-friendly choices.
“People will adapt and change,” Ms Pitt said.
“At least people are cooking from home more now and buying less takeaway.
“They are making coffee at home too.”
One of the most challenging by-products of the pandemic for environmental groups has been the reduction in volunteer numbers.
Her organisation has reduced the number of volunteers on site at the animal hospital from 30 to five per week to keep everyone safe.
“We are missing our volunteers because everyone’s needed,” Ms Pitt said.
“It’s a get in and get it done method at the moment. All our volunteers are so passionate; no animal has gone without being looked after.”
Most recently, an injured turtle was delivered to their doors on Tuesday, after Byron Bay divers rescued it from the ocean.
The emaciated turtle, which was likely bitten by a shark or hit by a boat, has been transported to a Lennox Head vet to get the best treatment possible.
While there has been no increase yet of injured marine animals due to plastic waste, Ms Pitt said it was something they would be keeping their eyes on.
Australian Seabird Rescue’s objective is to reduce the human impact on wildlife through rescue, research and education.