Rethinking Plastics – Circular Economy Solutions to Marine Litter
UPDATED on 27 May 2022
Marine litter is a growing global challenge, affecting more and more marine ecosystems and fisheries as well as the tourism sector. Plastics, for example in packaging and single-use products such as straws and plastic bags, contribute to a huge amount of waste in the sea. East and Southeast Asia belong to the major hotspot regions worldwide for plastic waste leakage into the ocean and its potential impacts on biodiversity. In addition, about half of global plastics are produced in Asia.
Governments, businesses, academia, civil society and consumers are increasingly recognising the need for action. Initiatives have emerged, for instance, at the level of the G20 and the UN, by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and in the EU with, amongst others, the European Strategy for Plastics. Continuous exchange and deepened cooperation between the EU and partner countries in East and Southeast Asia thus provide mutual opportunities.
To support a transition towards a circular economy for plastics in East and Southeast Asia to reduce plastic waste leakage into the sea. In a circular economy, resources are used and managed in a more efficient and sustainable manner through the principles of reduce, reuse and recycle. With these efforts, the project contributes to strengthening the cooperation between the EU and seven countries in the region in the areas of circular economy, plastic waste management and marine litter reduction.
The project provides support and advice to its political partners and implements activities in the following areas:
Management of plastic waste along the waste hierarchy, including extended producer responsibility and deposit return schemes for packaging and plastic products;
Sustainable consumption and production of plastic, for example, design for reuse and recyclability, as well as alternatives to plastics;
Reduction of litter from sea-based sources, for example, through port reception facilities for waste from ships and fishing-for-litter schemes.
In addition, the project supports awareness raising about sustainable consumption and production of plastic and enhances policy dialogues between the EU, regional organisations and partner countries concerning plastic production and management. In Japan and Singapore, the project focuses on policy dialogue as well as on enhancing green procurement policies, processes and cooperation.
More than 20 pilot projects in China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam test new approaches or the upscaling of best practices for plastic waste management, sustainable consumption and production of plastic or litter reduction from sea-based sources. Knowledge exchange is fostered, for example, through workshops and conferences, webinars, and communication campaigns.
RESULTS SO FAR
In Thailand, the project supports dialogue and policy development and cooperates with various partners on identifying good practices and finding new solutions.
‘Rethinking Plastics’ supports PCD in, for example, implementing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between MNRE and several stakeholders to reduce single-use plastics from food delivery, which saw a rise due to COVID-19.
The project also provides information and exchange on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and the inclusion of the informal waste sector. In 2021, it organised an EPR exchange series with more than 300 participants and provided recommendations for developing a policy framework for EPR for packaging waste in Thailand.
The following four pilot projects in Thailand are in implementation:
Households Fit for Recycling in Rayong Province: Local communities, schools and stakeholders along the plastic value chain engage for a better segregation and collection of plastic waste. The goal is to enhance its recycling rate and therewith reduce plastic leakage into the ocean.
A Circular Economy for Islands in Trang Province: The island of Koh Libong is important for wildlife and marine biodiversity, as it is the largest seagrass area in Thailand and home for dugongs. To conserve this precious marine environment, the pilot partners work with local communities to avoid and better manage plastic waste.
Less Plastics in Phuket: Phuket, Thailand’s largest island, aims to reduce and better manage the amount of plastic waste in businesses and households. Alternatives to single-use plastics are explored, for example, with restaurants and the food delivery sector.
Improving Ship Waste Management in Bangkok Port: The pilot develops an online platform for a better ship waste management in Bangkok Port. Moving towards efficient mandatory ship waste notification and financing structures helps to reduce illegal waste dumping into the sea.
In February 2022, the project supported the art exhibition “Tangled” in Bangkok, which attracted more than 12,000 visitors in two-and-a-half weeks. A virtual tour is available here. It also works together with the fishing communities in Nakhon Si Thammarat to strengthen marine debris management on small-scale fishing vessels and communities.
European Union (EU)
German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam