Workshop Summary Report - Addressing Marine Plastic Pollution in Asia - Potential Key Elements of a Global Agreement
Plastic litter and microplastics have 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.
The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) has in its four consecutive sessions adopted resolutions recognised the need to stop the discharge of plastic litter and microplastics into the oceans. Reports have demonstrated fundamental gaps in the current international legal and policy frameworks, rendering them ill-equipped to eliminate this problem. Member states have started exploring a number of policy responses as well as measures to strengthen global governance structures, including the possibility of a new global agreement.