Coronavirus: 10 million hand sanitiser bottles heading to landfill

It is feared that levels of recycling will drop during the coronavirus pandemic, as demand for hand sanitiser skyrockets. (Getty)
It is feared that levels of recycling will drop during the coronavirus pandemic, as demand for hand sanitiser skyrockets. (Getty)

Up to 10 million empty hand sanitiser and liquid soap bottles used during the coronavirus pandemic are likely to end up in landfill sites in the UK, according to experts.

National waste company BusinessWaste.co.uk noted that while people are following the advice of healthcare officials, the resulting waste may not be doing much good for the planet.

The worldwide battle against the spread of the coronavirus caused global shortages of hand sanitiser, caused by stockpiling and increased usage. Sales in the UK surged 225% in February, before COVID-19 had even hit Britain in earnest.

This led to increased production as many companies turned their attention to manufacturing sanitiser.

As the number of sanitisers and soaps purchased by the British public rises, so does the concern that the plastic containers they are packaged in will not be disposed of properly.

Most households and businesses now separate their rubbish into recycling bins — but the worry is that this will be seen as unimportant as people worry about their health.

Read more: One of UK's richest men pledges to build hand sanitiser plant in 10 days

It is feared that levels of recycling will drop during the coronavirus pandemic, according to BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall.

“Times may be frightening and confused for many individuals during the COVID-19 outbreak, we cannot allow ourselves to fall into the bad habit of just chucking everything into the general rubbish,” Hall said.

“With everything currently up in the air, it’s understandable that recycling practices may not be everyone’s main concern right now, but we need to make sure we continue recycling for the future.

“We don’t want one of the lasting legacies coronavirus to be the vast number of hand sanitiser bottles polluting our oceans and piling up around the world, but unfortunately it will be if we don’t act now.”

To avoid plastic ending up in landfill, Hall said people should try to recycle as much as possible and make sure they are recycling properly by washing out bottles to remove residue and avoid contamination, taking the cap off of the bottle as different grades of plastic will be recycled separately, and ensuring soap bottle pumps are removed as they are not currently recyclable in the UK.

Read more: Buckinghamshire distillery makes hand sanitiser out of honey

Other ways to reduce plastic usage include refilling existing plastic bottles and buying bars of soap, which are just as effective at keeping your hands hygienically clean, Hall said.