Collective Efforts to End Plastic Pollution in South-East Asia


Collective Efforts to End Plastic Pollution in South-East Asia

Official Side Event at the UN Ocean Conference 2022
Post-event update

Bangkok, 2 July 2022

Read the event report here.

An ambitious global agreement to end plastic pollution will not be possible without the commitment and collective actions among the governments, private sectors, civil society organizations, and consumers. In South-East Asian region, the momentum to end plastic pollution has picked up despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United Nations Environment Programme’s SEA circular project organized a virtual side event at the UN Ocean Conference 2022 on 29 June 2022 to discuss the way forward towards the Global Plastic Agreement and the preparation for the intergovernmental negotiations to tackle plastic pollution in the South-East Asian Region through collaborative actions among the governments, businesses and private sectors, consumers, and development partners.

The event was organized in collaboration with the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), World Economic Forum’s Global Plastics Action Partnership (GPAP), and Food Industry Asia (FIA).

In the welcoming speech, Ms. Isabelle Louis, Deputy Regional Director, UN Environment Programme Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific highlighted, “Countries in South-East Asia are increasingly visible in their advocacy and demonstration of solutions in national, regional and Global platforms in sharing experiences, accelerating efforts, and engaging in regional and global processes for change”.

310 participants from different countries across the world, especially from South-East Asia, joined this discussion and exchanged thoughts, queries, and ideas through question-answers and live poll participation.

Ms. AnnaMaria Oltorp, Head of Development Cooperation Section – Regional Asia and the Pacific, Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok, said in her opening speech, “Our future generations should be able to enjoy an ocean free from plastic pollution and food and water free from microplastics. This is our responsibility to solve”.

The Director of Global Plastic Action Partnership at World Economic Forum, Ms. Kristin Hughes, set the scene, “Like the rest of the world, South-East Asia has experienced rapid growth in plastic production and use over the past few decades. Though the per capita single-use plastic consumption is lower than in other regions, in many South-East Asian countries there is a severe lack of adequate waste management that amplifies its negative impact”.

Representatives from four ASEAN member countries joined a dynamic panel discussion titled “Transforming Commitment into Action to End Plastic Pollution” to share national-level plans and efforts in this area.

Amongst several interesting topics, the panel acknowledged the importance of and commitment to innovative mechanisms for financing and monitoring of investments in the area of plastic waste management to drive results. In addition, they emphasized plans and actions towards actively engaging the informal sector in their journey to achieve their national plans of action on marine litter.

Ms. Nor Haswani Kamis from the Ministry of Environment and Water in Malaysia said that her government is looking forward to actively participating in the International Negotiating Committee (INC) process, and already started discussions with national stakeholders, which include different ministries, business associations, Petro-Chemical producers, plastic manufacturers, retailers, resellers, and NGOs.

She further stressed that consumer behaviour is what determines the direction, action, and effectiveness. We expect consumers to change, there must be enough alternative options for them to use instead of plastics.

Mr. Anh-Duc LUU from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in Viet Nam shared that Viet Nam has issued a strategy for sustainable development of the marine economy in parallel with the protection of the marine environment and eco-system.

On the other hand, the Philippines has adopted 10 strategies to reduce and manage marine litter pollution, as mentioned by Ms. Consolacion P. Crisostomo from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Philippines. The country is working on a law for taking back the packaging (plastics) to the producers, that will effectively address the plastic pollution crisis”.

At the same time, Indonesia has regulation and call for reduction of waste by 30 percent and handling of waste by 70 percent by 2025, as stated by Ms. Zenitha Astra Paramita from the Ministry of Finance in Indonesia.

She further added, “We have national and regional government, private sector and communities tackling plastic waste management. Additionally, we need to change the consumers’ behaviour. We encourage the informal sector and waste collector to come up with ways on how we can work hand-in-hand to make this happen”.

In the second half of the event, some interesting findings from a recent survey to understand the perception of businesses and consumers on plastics and policies for circularity in South-East Asia, which was commissioned by SEA circular project with Food Industry Asia, was shared by Mr. Cheng Wei Swee from AlphaBeta.

The study was conducted among 400 consumers and 300 businesses in five countries of South-East Asia including Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam.

The sneak peeks into the survey results revealed that 61% and 40% of consumers feel that governments and businesses are actively tackling plastic waste issues, respectively. While 85% of businesses are concerned about plastic waste issues, only 53% feel that their current actions are sufficient. On the other hand, 88% of consumers are concerned about plastic waste issues, while only around half of them will switch to purchase products made from recycled materials.

Nevertheless, businesses and consumers demand action to address plastic pollution, acknowledge that they need to do more, and commit to increasing their contributions with better awareness and guidance. While businesses commented that their works towards plastic waste management were significantly derailed by the pandemic, they agreed that their efforts have increased now and confirmed commitment to collective action with other stakeholders.

Later, some good practice examples from the Food and Beverage sector by the leading companies were shared by the CEO of Food Industry Asia, Mr. Matt Kovac. This short talk revealed palpable demonstration of real commitment, resource allocation, progress, and responsibility amongst the leading organizations in the industry when it comes to addressing plastic waste.

The event was hosted by Ms. Dian Anderson, Associate Director of EB Impact, and the panel discussions were moderated by Ms. Meaghan See, Director of Partnerships, Eco Business.

Audiences are invited to watch the webinar recording, here.

About SEA circular project

The SEA circular project – Reducing marine litter by addressing the management of the plastic value chain in Southeast Asia is implemented by the UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), with funding support from the Government of Sweden. SEA circular aims to reduce and prevent plastic pollution and its impact by working with governments, businesses, civil society, academia, and international partners. The initiative promotes market-based solutions and enabling policies to transform plastic value-chain management, strengthens the science base for informed decision making, creates outreach and awareness. The project leverages COBSEA’s regional mechanism to tackle the transboundary challenge of marine litter in a harmonized manner.

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