Plastics: The Costs to Society, The Environment, and The Economy

Plastic plays many important roles, but its production, use and disposal impose countless negative impacts on society, with plastic pollution among the most pressing environmental issues of today.

Due to its seemingly cheap price and various uses, plastic has been increasingly used across millions of applications. As a result, plastic production has almost doubled over the past two decades. The production of this plastic releases chemical pollutants and greenhouse gases (GHG) that can cause adverse health effects in humans and contribute to climate change. Given that much of the plastic produced is designed to be used only once, increasing plastic production will inevitably result in increases in plastic waste. This waste is either disposed of via processes that can also release chemical pollutants and contribute to climate change, or leaks into the environment, becoming plastic pollution. Today, more than 11 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year. Pollution in the ocean poses a threat to marine life, impacting the provision of ecosystem services and damaging key economic industries such as fisheries and tourism.

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