© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.The COVID-19 pandemic not only has caused a global health crisis but also has significant environmental consequences. Although many studies are confirming the short-term improvements in air quality in several countries across the world, the long-term negative consequences outweigh all the claimed positive impacts. As a result, this review highlights the positive and the long-term negative environmental effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by evaluating the scientific literature. Remarkable reduction in the levels of CO (3 − 65%), NO2 (17 − 83%), NOx (24 − 47%), PM2.5 (22 − 78%), PM10 (23 − 80%), and VOCs (25 − 57%) was observed during the lockdown across the world. However, according to this review, the pandemic put enormous strain on the present waste collection and treatment system, resulting in ineffective waste management practices, damaging the environment. The extensive usage of face masks increased the release of microplastics/nanoplastics (183 to 1247 particles piece−1) and organic pollutants in land and water bodies. Furthermore, the significant usages of anti-bacterial hand sanitizers, disinfectants, and pharmaceuticals have increased the accumulation of various toxic emerging contaminants (e.g., triclocarban, triclosan, bisphenol-A, hydroxychloroquine) in the treated sludge/biosolids and discharged wastewater effluent, posing great threats to the ecosystems. This review also suggests strategies to create long-term environmental advantages. Thermochemical conversions of solid wastes including medical wastes and for treated wastewater sludge/biosolids offer several advantages through recovering the resources and energy and stabilizing/destructing the toxins/contaminants and microplastics in the precursors.