Plastic policies “lagging behind” in South-East Asia

Plastic waste in Malaysia | Picture credit: Greenpeace

A new UN Environment Programme assessment of plastic waste policies has found limited packaging-related policies and “weak enforcement” are aggravating the problem of plastic pollution in South-East Asia.

The report goes on to recommend that harmonised, pan-ASEAN policies would be a boon to countries in tackling the plastic pollution problem.

It also suggests that countries would benefit from shared technology hubs in the ASEAN region for recycling and monitoring of the trade in plastic waste.

“South-East Asia is a primary source and victim of plastic, where it is choking seas and threatening ecosystems and livelihoods,” said Kakuko Nagatani-Yoshida, UNEP’s Regional Coordinator for Chemicals and Waste.

“If we want to solve the marine litter problem globally, we have to solve it in this region.”

If we want to solve the marine litter problem globally, we have to solve it in this region

Over half of the land-based plastic pollution in our oceans originates from just five countries, four of which are in South-East Asia.

This pollution has more than an environmental impact – plastic litter in the Asia-Pacific region alone costs its tourism, fishing and shipping industries $1.3 billion per year.

The report, The Role of Packaging Regulations and Standards in Driving the Circular Economy, is the first comprehensive look at policies on packaging waste and standards in 10 countries in South-East Asia.

It also compares South-East Asian policies to those elsewhere, such as the EU and Japan. The review shows that in the latter jurisdictions, the packaging of waste is managed more sustainably due to a presence of national targets, an overarching life cycle approach to packaging, and adopting policy that emphasises solutions that address the root cause of the problem.

UNEP launched the report at SEA of Solutions 2019, the first annual partnership week convened by SEA circular – an initiative from UNEP and the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), with support from the Swedish Government.

SEA circular is an initiative from the UN Environment Programme and the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) to inspire market-based solutions and encourage enabling policies to solve marine plastic pollution at source.

The project is working in six countries in South East Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, from 2019-2023, and is supported by the Government of Sweden.

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