United Nations Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum, Asia-Pacific
A Session on Plastic Circularity Through Responsible Business Conduct: Realizing the Right to a Healthy Environment [Day 2, Session 4]
Event Date: Wednesday, 21st September 2022, from 10:45 to 12:00 hrs. (ICT)
Event Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Event Overview: Plastic waste and pollution are threatening ecosystems and livelihoods across South-East Asia. Increasing volumes of plastic waste have led to environmental, social and health impacts, particularly for vulnerable communities. Asia is both a hotspot for plastic pollution as well as a range of innovative measures designed to curb plastic pollution. Businesses are increasingly finding innovative ways to reduce plastic waste and transition to a more resource-efficient and circular economy while new solutions are evolving to improve collection, recycling and capture of plastic waste leakage.
The protection of the environment and ecosystems contributes to the fulfilment of human rights and human well-being, including health, safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, an adequate standard of living and decent work. In moving towards a circular value chain for plastics, business strategies should be informed by holistic assessments of social and environmental impacts across value chains, factoring in the rights and gender dimensions of both challenges and opportunities. A systemic approach to achieving more sustainable value chains can contribute to building more prosperous and resilient economies and inclusive societies.
According to the ILO, a sustained 5% annual increase in recycling rates for plastics, glass, wood pulp, metals and minerals could generate around 6 million additional jobs worldwide. For example, 500,000 people are employed in the recycling and waste management sectors in Bangladesh, most of them women. While this sector has an enormous potential to create new jobs, many of the employment in this sector remains largely part of the informal economy in many countries. Workers face serious decent work deficits, such as work-related hazards, discrimination, stigmatization, violence and harassment, low earnings, and long working hours.
International instruments such as the ILO’s MNE Declaration and the OECD’s guidelines for multinational-enterprises provide the guidance and support to drive efforts stakeholders to adopt a holistic approach to addressing plastic waste and their impact on the world of work. This includes helping businesses avoid and address adverse impacts to workers, consumers and the environment that may be associated with operations, supply chains or business relationships; re-skilling of the workforce to meet the demands of new sectors such as the recycling and waste management. Meanwhile, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) through a responsible business conduct lens means adopting a holistic approach to the plastic value chain, including the informal waste management sector that contributes an important part in achieving circular economy in developing economies.
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