The plastic footprint of 6 fast-growing Asian economies

New report on China, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia

Published: Saturday 22 February 2020

A report commissioned by World Wide Fund (WWF), released February 19, 2020, showed how plastic packaging waste from China and five other fast-growing economies in southeast Asia affected seas and oceans.

Plastic packaging accounted for about half the world’s plastic waste. The report by GVM, a Germany-based consultancy that specialises in packaging, GVM, analysed the consumption of plastic packaging of China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

Eight million tonnes plastic ended up in seas and oceans on an average every year. More than 60 per cent of that originated from the six countries surveyed.

Such plastic will remain in the environment for centuries, decomposing gradually into countless microplastic particles, and endanger more than 800 species.

Among the six countries, Malaysia consumed the most plastic packaging per capita at 14.8 kilogrammes, followed by Thailand (15.52 kg), China (14.08 kg), Vietnam (12.93 kg), Indonesia (12.5 kg) and the Philippines (12.4 kg).

Household packaging consumption was the highest in China at 19,765 million tonnes, followed by Indonesia (3,265 mt), the Philippines (1,281 mt), Vietnam (1,223 mt), Thailand (1,069 mt) and Malaysia (523 mt). That totalled to around 27 mt.

The report touched upon the idea of funds that could be raised if the countries introduced extended producer responsibility (EPR): ompanies producing plastic packaging should cover the costs of its proper management — from collection and sorting to recycling and disposal.

More than 30 countries, including  many in Europe, Japan and South Korea, have implemented EPR programmes. Nearly 400 such schemes existed worldwide.

In practice, rather than each company taking responsibility individually, EPR schemes are usually managed by a collective system operator, sometimes known as a producer responsibility organisation (PRO). Companies making plastic packaging paid fees to the organisations for the packaging they marketed; the PRO organised collection and further processing of the packaging waste, as well as for communicating with consumers.

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