Wasting less plastic and keeping it out of the ocean – Has the needle moved
SEA of Solutions is an annually occurring partnership event towards solving plastic pollution at source, convened by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), through the SEA circular project supported by the Government of Sweden. This year’s SEA of Solutions 2020 will be organized in collaboration with the government of Viet Nam.
SEA of Solutions 2019 was held 11-14 November 2019 in Bangkok, Thailand, bringing together over 500 delegates from more than 35 countries including government and business leaders, scientists, innovators, conservationists and community groups in dialogue on solutions to marine plastic pollution. Through 20 sessions, the event addressed some of the most pressing issues in reducing plastic waste and marine litter, such as the illegal trade in plastic waste, stimulating demand and financing for second life markets and recovery, and mainstreaming circular economy practices by businesses, communities and local governments, underscoring the need for urgent action and collaboration. The event culminated in a series of inspiring pledges towards plastic pollution prevention.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused new and extraordinary challenges, threatening public health, the economy, and the environment. Efforts to preserve life and prevent contagion, such as wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing remain important measures. However, increased use of personal protective equipment (masks and gloves), hand sanitizers (mostly in single-use plastic packaging), a resurgence in the use of plastics including single-use bags, extensive use of food delivery services and e-commerce, delays or reversals in plastic bag bans and even the banning of reusables in business establishments and cities all have repercussions. Waste disposal systems are overwhelmed, and a large volume of plastic is finding its way to the sea. Getting back on track with policies and programs toward reducing plastic waste and increasing recycling is a major challenge, during the pandemic and as it finally subsides.
Recognizing this challenge, SEA of Solutions 2020 (SOS2020) will continue to explore and address priorities in the region, building on outcomes from the previous year, with a focus on the key question – how can we now progress towards “less plastic wasted”?
SOS2020 unites seekers and providers of market-transforming policy, business, and technology solutions, enabling networking among plastic value-chain stakeholders to facilitate information exchange, collaboration, and partnerships that result in reduced single-use plastic production, use of alternative packaging, and increased collection for recycling.
Under the overall theme “Wasting less plastic and keeping it out of the ocean – Has the needle moved?” SOS2020 will:
- Discuss the challenges of managing COVID-19-related waste and the identify the ongoing efforts and multi-stakeholder responses and solutions, with a focus on reduction and recycling;
- Highlight opportunities for transformation through footprint measurement, reporting, and disclosure, plastic neutrality and monetizing waste for communities and businesses;
- Promote and enable policies and incentives towards less plastic wasted through a deeper understanding of market perceptions and consumer behavior.
SOS2020 brings together:
- Businesses, governments, donor agencies, academia and communities to discuss how their own activities, challenges and best practices are supporting less plastic wasted;
- Women, local communities and the informal sector with their work on fair payment and equal access to opportunities to help lift living standards;
- Youth and community to voice their concerns, present their ideas, and connect with potential mentors, partners, and donors.
The event will be gender balanced and inclusive, ensuring equal opportunity to participate actively as delegates and as speakers. Participation of representatives with expertise in gender equality, a human rights-based approach and representatives of disadvantaged groups will be encouraged and facilitated.
What will be done at SOS2020?
Planned for 3 days from 24 – 26 November, SOS2020 will be organized around a series of plenary discussions interspersed with action-oriented and case-studies-led sessions, and will feature networking spaces and an online exhibition pavilion.
Sessions: Format options will include TED-style presentations, dialogues (moderator interviewing an expert or person of interest), and panel discussions. Sessions will be short (max of 60 minutes, with interaction time of at least 20 minutes per session), and will be complemented by audience engagement via Q&A, polls, and other creative tools to encourage participation. A maximum total of 3 hours of virtual connection per day is targeted.
Networking Rooms: Meeting spaces for participants and break-out discussions will be available during designated networking time slots, outside of the organized session schedules.
Exhibition Pavilion: A virtual array of curated exhibition booths from selected contributors will provide opportunities for bilateral discussions, networking and showcasing of solutions that are already contributing to less plastic wasted. These online spaces will feature exhibition hosts, short films or recordings and other interactive exhibition formats.
How will it work?
With prevailing and likely measures to mitigate COVID-19 risks and impacts, SOS2020 will be run mainly as a virtual event, exploring new ways of exchanging information and interacting. This allows SOS2020 to reach an even greater audience from within and outside the region.
SOS2020 will be organized from a base hub in Bangkok, where core elements of the event will be conducted in person and from where sessions and other activities will be livestreamed.
The base hub may connect to other hubs, where SOS2020 partners may convene specific sessions or provide a venue from which speakers can present.
SOS2020 Theme: Wasting less plastic and keeping it out of the ocean – Has the needle moved?
Tackling plastic pollution and marine litter requires a multi-stakeholder value chain and source-to-sea approaches. SOS2020 will discuss how far we have travelled in our efforts of wasting less plastic, and if the plethora of actions is achieving the desired impact on plastic pollution and marine litter.
The programme will be developed to address issues such as:
1. The Plastic Pandemic: Is less plastic waste even possible during COVID-19?
With COVID-19, fear of contamination, a surge in the use of masks and single-use plastic, weak demand for recycled plastics and the current low oil values driving down prime plastic prices has upended many efforts to reduce plastic waste and marine litter. Sessions will address what government action, legislation, and additional financial motivation for markets to use recycled material and incorporate recycled contents to other polymers are needed to counteract and address this issue.
2. Aligning science and research for policy and management use
Notwithstanding the progress made in development of policies, more granularity is needed for science and research to enable better policy perspectives and guide management planning and action. Focusing scientific effort can provide a driving force for better integration of policy measures and implementation, and for enabling commitment to greater ambitions and shared actions from organizations.
3. Market perceptions and incentives to action
A recent survey among consumers and businesses offer insight that can support action across government and private sector. Key areas where accelerated government action is considered most critical include: mandating waste segregation, enhancing collection systems, ensuring consistent labelling for product recycling, and imposing littering fines and charges. Discussions will focus on how these gaps in market perceptions and reality might be bridged to enable plastic value chain transformation with targeted incentives. This shift would require government incentives and a new approach from industry and investors.
4. Transformation through National and Local Action
Inter-linkages between regional, national, and local marine litter plans occur at different levels and succeed with the active participation of various sectors and stakeholders. The sessions under this theme will also cover the working technologies and processes and their practical uses.
5. Technologies and innovation for community action
Innovative approaches using technology, data applications, and social and integrated media for awareness and outreach can generate opportunities for communities and local governments in the management of waste, the provision of livelihoods, and the protection of their environments. Unlikely partnerships and collaboration create effective cross learning and knowledge sharing opportunities that can scale and create real impact.
6. Pledges that count: Tracking the SOS2019 commitments and Collaborating on new ones
A stocktake of the actions and the commitments to less plastic wasted made by representatives from government, business, community groups and civil society will be shared in this year’s Voices session. SOS2020 will aim to elevate the discussions and lift the bar on advancing pledges and escalating action by an even larger constituency of stakeholders.
For interest to host a session, exhibition, or a side event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
 The programme and individual sessions will be developed with invited partners. Separate guidance will be provided.