Private sector urges to take part in fighting plastic pollution

FOLLOWING the launch this month of a USD1 billion initiative by some 30 major industrial and consumer goods companies around the world to fight plastic pollution, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) Executive Director Dr Theresa Mundita S Lim called on other private companies in the ASEAN region to follow-suit.

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), which was convened by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, will fund initiatives in waste management and recycling infrastructure worldwide.

The AEPW will support innovative technologies that could offer solutions to the large and growing issue of plastic pollution. Among the members of AEPW are Proctor & Gamble, Lyondell Basell, BASF, Dow and Mitsui Chemicals, Exxon Mobil, Total, and Shell.

The AEPW announced that it would invest in an incubator network, run by Circulate Capital, which will help develop innovative technologies and business models to prevent plastic waste. It would support Renew Oceans, an India-based organisation that aims to divert plastic waste from rivers.

A 2016 report from the World Economic Forum estimated that at current rates, the total weight of marine plastic will be greater than that of the fish in the oceans. Microplastics – invisible fragments of plastic waste – have been detected in many marine species, and are now in the human food chain.

Director Lim said, “The private sector’s commitment through the AEPW is a very laudable action. At the present rate of threats to biodiversity, and with global Sustainable Development Goals to be met, the private sector has a huge role to play in biodiversity conservation. I hope other multi-national companies, especially in the ASEAN region, could emulate this initiative. This move against plastic pollution by the private sector is a concrete example of integrating or ‘mainstreaming’ biodiversity conservation in the business sector, which is among the major thrusts of ACB.”

Earlier in 2018, Dr Lim lauded the ASEAN member states in their continued efforts in reducing plastic wastes in the region. She cited ACB’s hometown, Los Baños, Laguna, as the first ever municipality in the Philippines to regulate use of plastic materials.

“I am happy to report that each ASEAN member State has its own initiative in dealing with plastic wastes. For example, Brunei Darussalam has a campaign to stop the use of plastic bags in supermarkets by the end of 2019. In Cambodia, major supermarkets charge KHR 400 (USD 0.10) per plastic bag to reduce its wasteful use. Lao PDR also encourages the public to use recyclable bags which are being sold in downtown cafes and markets. Malaysia, Myanmar, and Indonesia also implement bans and taxes on the use of plastic bags,” said Dr Lim.

She also reported that in Singapore, one of the world’s giant players in the fast food chain industry with 84 restaurants in the country banned the use of plastics for dine-in customers last year.

In Thailand, the government is promoting the importance of reducing the number of plastic bags to lessen the harmful effects on the environment. Large businesses and enterprises in Vietnam have introduced eco-friendly bags for shoppers, and the government imposes environment tax on plastic bags, at VND40,000 (USD1.76) per kilogramme.