Plastics: The costs to society, the environment and the economy

Posted on 24 September 2021

Now, is a critical moment for governments to ensure that all actors in the plastic system are held accountable for the cost imposed by the plastic lifecycle on nature and people.
The unique properties of plastic have led to it taking an important role in society.  Unfortunately, the production, consumption and disposal of this material impose significant negative impacts on society, the environment, and the economy. These costs are not accounted for in the current price of virgin plastic. 
 
As this report shows, the cost of plastic to the environment and society is at least 10 times higher than its market price paid by primary plastic producers, generating significant external costs for countries. The failure of governments to better understand the real costs of plastic has led to poor management of this material, and growing ecological, social, and economic costs for countries. The cost of the plastic produced in 2019 will be at least US$3.7 trillion (+/-US$1 trillion) over its estimated lifetime. The current global approach to addressing the plastic crisis is failing. Unless urgent action is taken, the societal lifetime cost of the plastic produced in 2040   could reach US$7.1 trillion (+/-US$2.2 trillion), equivalent to approximately 85% of global spending on health in 2018 and greater than the gross domestic product (GDP) of Germany, Canada, and Australia in 2019 combined. 
The production, consumption and disposal of this material impose significant negative impacts on society, the environment, and the economy.
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