The Price of Plastic Pollution:
Social Costs and Corporate Liabilities

The costs to society from plastic pollution — including environmental clean-up, ecosystem degradation, shorter life expectancy and medical treatment — exceed US$100bn per year, according to this research which sheds light on the growing global plastics crisis.

Plastics harm people, the environment, and the economy (“social costs”). Some social costs will inevitably turn into compensation claims against the plastics industry (“corporate liabilities”), which may present these claims to their insurers.

In this report, for the first time, we provide quantitative estimates of both the social costs and the corporate liabilities emerging from all forms of plastic-related pollution.

The manufacturers of chemical additives used in plastics, many of which have well-established harmful links to human health, face a greater likelihood of prosecution.

Plastic polymer manufacturers are also exposed to litigation because their products break down into the micro- and nano-plastic particles which pose severe risks to public health and the environment.

“This report builds on the already compelling evidence that plastic pollution inflicts unacceptable damage on our health — and on that of our children.

“The industries that are causing this damage are currently acting as free-riders on you, me, all of us, and all our offspring. Priced in, such costs and the price of plastics would multiply some tenfold what it is today.

“The bill, inevitably, is coming due. Courts, regulators and lawmakers are now paying attention.”

Dr Andrew Forrest AO, Chairman, Minderoo Foundation


This report outlines the necessary actions that multiple stakeholders must take now.

Corporates are required to disclose where their operations expose them to plastic-related pollution. Insurers need complete visibility of potential exposures to transfer the knowledge of emerging risks to corporate clients.

Investors should demand disclosure of plastic-related pollution risks and prioritise a reduction in harm across their portfolios.

Insurance supervisors should ensure potential exposures are understood at a company and industry level and ensure capitalisation standards meet the level of risk.

Policymakers have an unprecedented opportunity to establish a set of preventive measures to reduce human health harms from plastics and to advance efforts on circular plastic material management as part of a global plastics treaty.