Southeast Asia has seen some of the fastest economic growth rates in the world, and plastic production has boomed alongside it while waste management lags. In a region known for takeaway street food culture and single-use plastic, Southeast Asia’s limited waste management services and infrastructure contributes to mismanagement of more than 75 percent of plastic waste according to the UN Environment Programme. With four of the biggest plastic pollution culprits members of ASEAN, environmental advocacy and research groups want the group to work harder to stem the plastic tide. A 2015 study by environmental advocacy group Ocean Conservancy found that 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans every day — with more than half coming from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and China. Now, a collection of concerned stakeholders from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors are using growing global frustration over marine litter as a catalyst for improved waste management systems in Southeast Asia.
Supporting countries to make critical solid waste management policy and planning decisions is key, but finance and implementation constraints at the local level still pose some of the biggest barriers to successful systems. National governments can develop a five- to 10-year national strategy that details the current waste situation in the country and sets targets for the sector about recycling, financial sustainability, and public awareness. People who depend on waste management services must also made to accept that there is a cost associated, and the government must help create a link between the quantity of waste created by individual households and the business case for how much they pay (in penalty) through a formal system.
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