The pollution, emissions and clean up costs of plastic produced in 2019 alone could be over 3.7 trillion dollar, which is more than the GDP of India, said a report by WWF.
Giving a warning of environmental and economic burden of this menace, the report “Plastics: The cost to society, environment and the economy” said that these costs are set to double for the plastics produced in 2040 at 7.1 trillion dollars if action is not taken. It would be equivalent to 85 per cent of global spending on health in 2018 and greater than the GDP of Germany, Canada, and Australia in 2019 combined.
The report demonstrated that governments and citizens are unknowingly subsidizing a plastic system that is imposing countless negative impacts on people and the environment. In the report, the authors said that more than 11 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year. The report highlights how fragmented regulatory approaches, misplaced incentives as well as lack of coordinated technical resources, financial Support and consistent data on plastic leakage are costing the Earth. “Failure to understand and remediate the real costs of plastic will cost even more in the future, as under a business as usual scenario it is estimated that by 2040 there will be a doubling of its production and a tripling of plastic pollution entering the ocean to 29 million tonnes, increasing the total stock in the ocean to 600 million tonnes. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the plastic lifecycle will account for up to 20 per cent of the entire global carbon budget, accelerating the climate crisis,” the report said,
POLLUTION A BURDEN
WWF International Director General; Marco Lambertini said: “This is the first time we have seen such a clear assessment of some of the unaccounted costs being imposed by plastic pollution on society and they are a burden that is too high to bear – both for people and the environment. Tragically, the pollution crisis is showing no signs of slowing down, but the commitment to tackle it has reached an unprecedented level. We need a UN treaty on plastic pollution that unites governments, companies and consumers around clear targets for reduction, collection, recycling and sustainable alternatives to stop plastic leakage into the environment by 2030.”
The report finds that the cost of plastic to society, environment and economy is at least ten times higher than the market price of virgin plastic. It also stated that the current approach to addressing crisis is failing, Marginalised communities are disproportionately bearing the cost of the plastic lifecycle, and climate change, which the plastics lifecycle is contributing to, disproportion5ately affects disadvantaged groups.
Noting that the quantifiable societal cost of plastic is significant, the WWF said that this could be just the tip of the iceberg. “In particular, the costs of known and potential impacts on human health as well as impacts on the terrestrial ecosystems have not been quantified or are still difficult to quantify at this point,’ the report said.
The WWF also urged all UN member states to start negotiating for a global treaty that must tackle all stages of the plastic lifecycle, stopping its leakage into the oceans by 2030,