Groups to ASEAN: Act on plastic pollution, push Zero Waste in the region

Plastic waste at a collection centre.

On the 50th founding anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrated this month, environmental groups urged the regional body to act on plastic pollution in the region.

“ASEAN member countries can stop plastic pollution and protect our oceans by instituting policies that will reduce the use of single-use disposable plastics, protecting the region’s borders from becoming dumping grounds of waste and polluting waste management technologies from other countries, and implementing ecological and real solutions to the waste crisis,” said Von Hernandez, Global Coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) movement.

Organics make up more than half of the waste generated in most ASEAN countries.

The groups urged the regional body to invest in Zero Waste solutions to drastically reduce demand and consumption of single-use disposable products and packaging.

“As demonstrated by many communities in Asian countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, China, South Korea, and India to name a few, Zero Waste is an economically-viable and sustainable solution to our region’s waste problem. But for it to work at the scale needed to solve the problem, we need our governments to promote and institutionalize it,” said Froilan Grate, Asia Pacific Regional Coordinator of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

“As members of GAIA and BFFP, the Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) and Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) support the call to stop plastic pollution and move towards zero waste,” said S.M. Mohamed Idris, President of CAP and SAM.

Zero Waste is an ecological resource management and reduction model that involves waste separation at source, product redesign, and systematic waste collection and management.

In many Asian countries, Zero Waste may lean more heavily towards organic waste management because organics comprise more than 50% of the waste generated. Waste segregation allows households and communities to capture and manage different types of waste accordingly: recyclables are recycled and organics are managed through composting, biodigestion, and other methods of organics management.

What is left—the residual fraction—is then easier to manage. Solutions for this fraction will be designed better to make sure that materials that can neither be truly recycled or composted are systematically reduced.

“By supporting ecological solutions, ASEAN governments not just turn around the issue of wa