Implications of COVID-19 on global environmental pollution and carbon emissions with strategies for sustainability in the COVID-19 era

Mingyu Yang, Lin Chen, Goodluck Msigwa, Kuok Ho Daniel Tang, Pow Seng Yap*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)


The impacts of COVID-19 on global environmental pollution since its onset in December 2019 require special attention. The rapid spread of COVID-19 globally has led countries to lock down cities, restrict traffic travel and impose strict safety measures, all of which have implications on the environment. This review aims to systematically and comprehensively present and analyze the positive and negative impacts of COVID-19 on global environmental pollution and carbon emissions. It also aims to propose strategies to prolong the beneficial, while minimize the adverse environmental impacts of COVID-19. It systematically and comprehensively reviewed more than 100 peer-reviewed papers and publications related to the impacts of COVID-19 on air, water and soil pollution, carbon emissions as well as the sustainable strategies forward. It revealed that PM2.5, PM10, NO2, and CO levels reduced in most regions globally but SO2 and O3 levels increased or did not show significant changes. Surface water, coastal water and groundwater quality improved globally during COVID-19 lockdown except few reservoirs and coastal areas. Soil contamination worsened mainly due to waste from the use of personal protective equipment particularly masks and the packaging, besides household waste. Carbon emissions were reduced primarily due to travel restrictions and less usage of utilities though emissions from certain ships did not change significantly to maintain supply of the essentials. Sustainable strategies post-COVID-19 include the development and adoption of nanomaterial adsorption and microbial remediation technologies, integrated waste management measures, “sterilization wave” technology and energy-efficient technologies. This review provides important insight and novel coverage of the environmental implications of COVID-19 in more than 25 countries across different global regions to permit formulation of specific pollution control and sustainability strategies in the COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 eras for better environmental quality and human health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number151657
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2022


  • Air pollution
  • COVID-19
  • Carbon emissions
  • Environmental pollution
  • Soil pollution
  • Water pollution

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