ABSTRACT. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is upending our lives and the global economy in ways unimaginable until recently. While the overall impacts are still difficult to quantify, ramifications are sure to be felt for decades to come. Providing secure, reliable, and affordable resources for all without causing devastating environmental consequences is perhaps the greatest challenge of the 21st century. But the pandemic has significantly altered dynamics and changed priorities. How is this impacting the quest for sustainability? This paper analyzes these challenges by focusing on the plastic industry. There is no doubt that plastic has molded society in many ways that make our lives easier and safer, but it has also created a global environmental and sustainability crisis. To curb our addiction to plastic, the world had been trying to move away from virgin plastic, but the pandemic has turned an enemy into a much-needed ally. The following paper uses a mixed-methods approach of surveys, empirical analysis, and literature review to answer a fundamental question: How can we leverage the advantages of plastic without contributing to the world’s environmental crisis? This dilemma poses a significant challenge but also opens an opportunity to address sustainability at a systemic level through circularity and the transition to low-carbon alternatives to petroleum-based plastics.
JEL codes: L65; Q01; Q53; Q54; Q55

Keywords: circular economy; climate change; COVID-19; plastic; recycling; sustainability

How to cite: De Blasio, N., and Fallon, P. (2022). “The Plastic Waste Challenge in a Post-COVID-19 World: A Circular Approach to Sustainability,” Journal of Self-Governance and Management Economics 10(1): 7–29. doi: 10.22381/jsme10120221

Received 24 June 2021 • Received in revised form 11 November 2021
Accepted 1 February 2022 • Available online 11 February 2022

1Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA, USA, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. (corresponding author)
2Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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