Plastics and health - An urgent environmental, climate and health issue

Main Resource

Published: 02/02/2024

1.44 MB PDF

Language: English

Executive summary

As the world develops and adopts an international legally binding instrument on  plastic pollution, health needs to remain a central part of the discussion.

  1. There must be NO exemptions for plastics in health care along the treaty.
  2. Health care represents almost 10% of the global economy, and will continue to increase to provide equitable access to health care to the world’s growing population.
  3. The health care sector can model how to transition away from fossil fuels,  toxic chemicals, and unethical employment practices for the rest of the global economy.
  4. The whole life cycle must be considered. Plastic harms human health and the environment at each stage of its life cycle.
  5. As part of the core obligations and control measures of a new Treaty devoted to plastic pollution, health care products, supply chain, and waste need to be
  6. Restrictions already in place for plastic products like toys need to be extended to medical devices, and made global to ensure equity of protection.
  7. Increasing plastic production, consumption and disposal is fuelling the climate crisis, proliferating the use of fossil fuels and undermining climate and health goals; denying our need for nature conservation.
  8. When we move away from single use plastics, we not only support innovation, but help address the massive plastics pollution problem that has not only invaded our oceans and waterways, and our bodies.


The COVID-19 pandemic has not only exacerbated the production, trade and use of single use plastics in health care but has evidenced the power this sector has. Key actions can be taken by the health care sector - including ministries, hospitals, manufacturers, suppliers, health professionals, and others - to solve the health care plastics crisis.

Some of the priority actions are: a) reducing and redesign health care plastics, b) enable a circular economy for plastics, c) achieving environmentally sound management and recycling of plastic waste, and d) elevate the voices of health professionals as trusted messengers.

Health Care Without Harm offers tools, resources, data, existing knowledge  platforms, our Global Green and Healthy Hospitals, and 26 years of experience. The power of health care professionals already engaged in mobilizing the sector towards a more sustainable and resilient one, is ready to join the effort.