UNEP, COBSEA and Sweden Announce Project to Tackle Marine Plastic Pollution in SEA
Photo by IISD/Francis Dejon
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UNEP, the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia and the Government of Sweden announced a four-year project in Southeast Asia to reduce the use of difficult-to-recycle plastic, increase collection and recycling of high-value plastic, and boost public awareness and support for improved plastic pollution policies.

Several Southeast Asian countries are “major plastic polluters” and generate substantial amounts of plastic that ends up as marine litter in the world’s oceans.

10 September 2018: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment), the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA) and the Government of Sweden have announced a project to tackle marine litter and plastic pollution in Southeast Asia (SEA). The project will work to minimize marine litter, raise awareness on plastic pollution and improve the region’s waste management systems.

According to UNEP, several Southeast Asian countries are “major plastic polluters,” and generate substantial amounts of plastic that ends up as marine litter in the world’s oceans. UNEP’s regional director for Asia and the Pacific, Dechen Tsering, explained that “60 percent of all plastic that ends up in our oceans comes from only six countries in Asia.” Inexpensive plastic packaging and a take-away food culture further contribute to widespread single-use plastic use in the region. An additional challenge is the region’s limited waste management capacity, which contributes to mismanagement of over 75 percent of the region’s plastic waste.

Limited waste management capacity contributes to mismanagement of over 75 percent of the region’s plastic waste.

The four-year project will work to reduce the use of difficult-to-recycle plastic, increase collection and recycling of high-value plastic, and boost public awareness and support for improved plastic pollution policies. The project will engage stakeholders throughout the plastic value chain, from plastic producers and waste managers to individuals in coastal communities who experience the impacts of plastic pollution. Swedish Ambassador for the Ocean, Helen Ågren, emphasized the importance of working on many fronts to beat plastic pollution, “from material development and standardization in order to facilitate recycling, to increased consumer awareness and behavior change, to policy development that incentivizes a circular economy, efficient use of resources and sustainable waste management systems.”

UNEP and COBSEA will also strengthen the scientific basis for addressing marine litter by collecting and analyzing data on plastic leakage and marine litter at regional, national and local levels. The project will then use this information as baseline data to support the development of evidence-based policies and plans to reduce the amount of marine litter from the region.

UNEP and COBSEA, whose member countries are Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam, will implement the project with funding from the Sweden International Development Agency (Sida). [UNEP Press Release]

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