Members of Duke University's transdisciplinary Plastic Pollution Working Group examine the unequal distribution of benefits and burdens of plastics.
Surveying each stage of the macroplastic lifecycle and looking across diverse geographic contexts, the authors find the benefits of plastics to communities and stakeholders are principally economic, whereas their burdens fall largely on human health. Furthermore, the economic benefits of plastics are rarely applied to alleviate or mitigate the health burdens they create, amplifying the disconnect between who benefits and who is burdened.
The report stresses the need for policy design to include the health burdens of plastic to all impacted stakeholders across all plastic life stages, especially as mounting evidence suggests the long-term public health costs outnumber the short-term economic gains associated with plastic. The authors urge the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to not only consider all available knowledge on harmful effects across the entire plastic lifecycle but also apply the precautionary principle while drafting the upcoming international global plastic treaty.