Addressing Marine Plastic Pollution in Asia: Potential Key Elements of a Global Agreement

Lao PDR, Philippines, Timor-Leste, Viet Nam, Thailand, Rest of Asia
Type of Resource: 
Best Practice / Lessons Learned
Technical Reports / References
As plastic waste flows into the world’s oceans at alarming rates, support for a global framework to tackle the ocean plastic crisis is rapidly growing. Plastic litter and microplastics has been detected in all parts of the planet’s marine environment, including the depths of the Mariana Trench. Importantly, plastics cannot be contained with national boundaries. Over nine million tonnes of plastic waste enter the world’s oceans every year. This plastic debris is a threat to wildlife – more than 270 species have been harmed by entanglement in discarded fishing gear and other plastic. Additionally 240 species have been recorded living with ingested plastic. This is both a marine health and human health issue. For most governments in Southeast Asia, this problem is particularly pertinent with the region at the receiving end of a broken global recycling system and waste management limitations. The economic impact of plastic pollution on the region’s industries is estimated to reach US$1.3 billion per year. While most governments in Asia have announced or are in the process of creating national-level legislative or regulatory measures, without coordination beyond national borders these measures are limited in their ability to address the broader transboundary challenge of marine plastic pollution. A UN Environment Programme (UNEP) assessment in November 2019 highlights the limited packaging-related policies and weak enforcement as aggravating factors, calling for harmonised, pan-ASEAN policies to address the issue for harmonised, pan-ASEAN policies to address the issue. Plastic pollution is a global, transboundary and cross-sectoral problem that requires coordinated action, shared responsibility and a collective approach.