Five ASEAN countries among world’s biggest plastic polluters

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Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia are named in a new Greenpeace report as being among the top ten countries globally for mismanaged plastic waste, i.e. among the biggest plastic polluters worldwide, while China tops the list.

The study has been published by Greenpeace Philippines alongside a recent beach clean-up of two heavily polluted areas in Manila Bay, named as one of the worst areas for plastic pollution in the Philippines. During the clean-up, volunteers found items ranging from styrofoam to plastic footwear, along with tonnes of single-use plastics such as bags, plastic bottle labels and straws, but noted that most products being plastic sachets.

Indeed, the listed countries show a heavy use of plastic bags and sachets which has several avoidable reasons. First of all, there is an almost complete lack of environmental awareness among most consumers and corporate executives likewise, with tens of thousands of convenience stores in the region encouraging the practice of buying consumer goods in small quantities and having them in packed in a large number of plastic bags.

In Thailand, for example, the combined purchase of instant foodstuff, canned drinks, body care products and a warmed-up sandwich would result in receiving at least four plastic bags since store staff is keeps being told by store management to pack items separately in accordance with their product features. The bags are immediately thrown away after they are being brought home because there is no functional recycling option or reuse incentive for them.

Low-value single-use sachets are also not collected by scavengers and usually end up in landfills or scattered indiscriminately as litter in the streets, where they end up in sewers and canals and finally as marine debris.

This is true for all of the mentioned countries. While the Philippines a while again 2011 in accordance with its Total Plastic Bag Ban Act of 2011 replaced plastic bags in convenience stores by paper bags, this was quickly scrapped since the paper bags turned out to dissolve themselves in the frequent showers during the rainy season. The country now has the Plastic Bag Regulatory Act of 2013 in place which opts for the use of biodegradable plastic bags.

While Greenpeace holds the policies of multinational consumer product companies such as Nestle, Unilever and Procter & Gamble, as well as large local corporations responsible for the surging amounts of plastic waste, it should also be noted that large retail chains, namely 7-Eleven and all the others, also contribute a sizeable share of the garbage mountain due to the absence of simple deposit systems for plastic waste, bottles and cans which is the norm in most developed countries.

Greenpeace noted that ASEAN countries and their leaderships have a special responsibility to combat plastic waste because of their lengthy coastlines where most of the plastic waste goes and transforms into one the primary sources of marine plastics globally.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation estimates that the overall cost to the tourism, fishing and shipping industries was an accumulated $1.2 billion in the region, indicating the dire need for a coordinated and commensurate waste-management infrastructure which is nowhere to be seen.

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Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia are named in a new Greenpeace report as being among the top ten countries globally for mismanaged plastic waste, i.e. among the biggest plastic polluters worldwide, while China tops the list. The study has been published by Greenpeace Philippines alongside a recent beach clean-up of two heavily polluted areas in Manila Bay, named as one of the worst areas for plastic pollution in the Philippines. During the clean-up, volunteers found items ranging from styrofoam to plastic footwear, along with tonnes of single-use plastics such as bags, plastic bottle labels and straws, but noted...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia are named in a new Greenpeace report as being among the top ten countries globally for mismanaged plastic waste, i.e. among the biggest plastic polluters worldwide, while China tops the list.

The study has been published by Greenpeace Philippines alongside a recent beach clean-up of two heavily polluted areas in Manila Bay, named as one of the worst areas for plastic pollution in the Philippines. During the clean-up, volunteers found items ranging from styrofoam to plastic footwear, along with tonnes of single-use plastics such as bags, plastic bottle labels and straws, but noted that most products being plastic sachets.

Indeed, the listed countries show a heavy use of plastic bags and sachets which has several avoidable reasons. First of all, there is an almost complete lack of environmental awareness among most consumers and corporate executives likewise, with tens of thousands of convenience stores in the region encouraging the practice of buying consumer goods in small quantities and having them in packed in a large number of plastic bags.

In Thailand, for example, the combined purchase of instant foodstuff, canned drinks, body care products and a warmed-up sandwich would result in receiving at least four plastic bags since store staff is keeps being told by store management to pack items separately in accordance with their product features. The bags are immediately thrown away after they are being brought home because there is no functional recycling option or reuse incentive for them.

Low-value single-use sachets are also not collected by scavengers and usually end up in landfills or scattered indiscriminately as litter in the streets, where they end up in sewers and canals and finally as marine debris.

This is true for all of the mentioned countries. While the Philippines a while again 2011 in accordance with its Total Plastic Bag Ban Act of 2011 replaced plastic bags in convenience stores by paper bags, this was quickly scrapped since the paper bags turned out to dissolve themselves in the frequent showers during the rainy season. The country now has the Plastic Bag Regulatory Act of 2013 in place which opts for the use of biodegradable plastic bags.

While Greenpeace holds the policies of multinational consumer product companies such as Nestle, Unilever and Procter & Gamble, as well as large local corporations responsible for the surging amounts of plastic waste, it should also be noted that large retail chains, namely 7-Eleven and all the others, also contribute a sizeable share of the garbage mountain due to the absence of simple deposit systems for plastic waste, bottles and cans which is the norm in most developed countries.

Greenpeace noted that ASEAN countries and their leaderships have a special responsibility to combat plastic waste because of their lengthy coastlines where most of the plastic waste goes and transforms into one the primary sources of marine plastics globally.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation estimates that the overall cost to the tourism, fishing and shipping industries was an accumulated $1.2 billion in the region, indicating the dire need for a coordinated and commensurate waste-management infrastructure which is nowhere to be seen.

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