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The hidden cost of virgin plastic

The big issue

In September 2021, Dalberg published a report in collaboration with the WWF on how the real cost of producing virgin plastic is not really accounted for by the companies and countries at large. Furthermore, they outline that the production, consumption and disposal of this material impose significant negative impacts on society, the environment, and the economy. According to the report, humanity now produces more than 200 million tonnes of municipal solid plastic waste annually. This is equal to around 523 trillion plastic straws which if laid lengthwise could wrap around the world approximately 2.8 million times. So, the lifecycle of virgin plastic does not end when we conveniently throw away our plastic waste in the garbage container, but extends far beyond this point, potentially for thousands of years. One of the biggest contributors to the staggering levels of plastic pollution is the healthcare and supplement industries which add to the alluvion of garbage and landfill pollution. The global approach to addressing the plastic crisis continues to affect marginalised communities as they are disproportionately bearing the cost of the plastic lifecycle and climate change

Plastic Pollution at the beach

Here's an overview of the quantifiable and currently unquantified costs imposed by the plastic lifecycle.

Cost Dimension  Quantifiable Elements  Currently Unquantified Elements

Marketing Cost 

Market price of virgin plastics  



GHG emissions 

● Costs of GHG emissions from production processes

● Costs of GHG emissions from waste management processes. Both paid for indirectly by society (based on carbon prices and costs to stick to carbon commitments) 

● Costs of GHG emissions from uncontrolled plastic waste Health  



● Health costs from production processes

● Health costs from waste management processes

● Health risks from plastic use

● Health costs of uncontrolled plastic waste 


Waste Management  

Direct costs to governments and indirectly to corporates or citizens based on the taxes used to fund it or EPR schemes in place for formal waste management.

● Costs to informal waste management sector to conduct informal waste management activities. 



Unmanaged waste 

Lost ecosystem service costs of marine plastic pollution paid for indirectly by governments and all other stakeholders, given the environmental and economic consequences

● Revenue reductions from fisheries and tourism as a result of marine plastic pollution

● Clean-up activity costs 


● Lost ecosystem service costs of plastic pollution on terrestrial ecosystems (any ecosystems which are found on land including rainforests, deserts, and grasslands) 


The way forward

The European Union has acted as a trailblazer in the packaging transformation by crafting a robust plan in the year 2018 to circumscribe the use of plastic and overhaul the sustainable path for the packaging industry. In fact, according to the Eurostat report in 2021, the EU use of recycled plastic is at an all-time high at 41.5% which is three times that of the US. As per an Accenture report in 2020, half of the inquired consumers are ready to pay a premium for environmental-friendly packaging. Also, globally, supplement brands and manufacturers are bringing sustainability and sustainable plastic to the core of their ethos. Commercially speaking, the European dietary supplement packaging market is expected to reach a CAGR of 6.5% during the forecast period (2021 - 2026). This growth is directly proportional to the increasing consumption of the supplements due to growing awareness about health and fitness, coupled with rising vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which is further boosting the growth of the packaging market.

Re-engineer your environmental footprint

Acting as a catalyst for a sustainable future, SHIELDLER’s post-consumer recycling plastic waste programme aims at reducing the use of virgin plastic waste generated in the healthcare and nutraceutical industries by creating sustainable solutions from recycled plastic. We provide 100% recycled plastic products which is a greener alternative to single-use virgin plastic. The product range is EU manufactured and certified and can be manufactured in high volumes. Plastic pollution has put planet Earth in intensive care and the use of sustainable plastic is a must, now more than ever. We believe that by eliminating the use of single-use virgin plastics, healthcare and nutraceutical organisations can move forward in the journey of their sustainable transformation.



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