Denpasar, 3-4 May 2023: Harmonising collection of data, policy coherence, and multisectoral financing to tackle marine plastic pollution is essential to facilitate an efficient decision-making process, according to the experts attending The Third Regional Ocean Policy Dialogue in Bali.

The conference was held by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in collaboration with the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment of Indonesia, the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The dialogue aimed to share experiences and enhance regional cooperation in reducing plastic leakage to the marine environment.

‘Countries in this region have demonstrated to the world a model of leadership in coordinating actions to tackle marine plastic debris. And still, we need to put our utmost concern into addressing this issue in an integrated manner. Through this dialogue, the OECD will continue promoting a sustainable ocean economy and support advancements in combating plastic pollution by preparing the release of the Regional Plastics Outlook on Southeast Asia’ said Ms Mathilde Mesnard, Deputy Director of the OECD Environment Directorate in her opening remarks.

One of the highlights of the dialogue was the need for data resulting in evidence-based policymaking. Mr Florian Mante, statistician at the Environmental Performance and Information Division, OECD Environment Directorate, said there are still challenges in both measuring data and ensuring its quality.

For instance, the measurement scope and estimation methods for waste data still differed and occasionally changed over time in accordance with the national waste management laws and practices. Furthermore, there is still no consensus on the type of waste and materials as well as the way of waste treatment and disposal that should be covered and measured.

‘There are also particular issues which arise of waste that are not monitored through official channels, including waste generated through illegal dumping and ones picked by the informal sectors,’ added Mr Mante.

Also read: Building Data on the Plastics Value Chain in ASEAN Member States

Mr Rofi Alhanif, Director of Waste Management, Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment of Indonesia explained that waste data in Indonesia are collected by more than 500 municipal authorities, but there is still a lack of standardisation which results in contrasting gaps, especially between data collected in the big and small cities.

‘This is why we think a global monitoring system can be the solution for data standardisation’, Mr Alhanif concluded.

Ms Wassana Jangprajak, environmentalist, Senior Professional Level, Pollution Control Department, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Thailand, pointed out the lack of data on the whole life cycle of plastic in Thailand. On the downstream, plastic waste leaking into the sea through runoff is not accurately accounted for. On the upstream, obtaining primary data on plastic production from producers and private sectors remains a major challenge.

Other officials from ASEAN countries pointed to the need for a national data centre to organize, store, and disseminate collected waste data. They also argued that by changing the way we interpret and represent waste data, the latter can become potential economic resources for the country’s development.


Good practices to overcome challenges

Ms Josephine Tan Mei Ling, the General Manager of Penang Green Council said the challenge in implementing measures to reduce plastic pollution at local level, such as the reduction of single-use-plastics and waste segregation, is to encourage people, not just to take consciousness of the problem but to take concrete actions.

‘Community engagements that create a sense of ownership over the program is a good practice, which can induce a sustainable implementation’ said Ms Tan.

An example is the Trash-Free Penang program, a community reward system which encourages waste segregation at source. By putting recycling stations as a hub for local communities, the system not only allows people to drop off their recyclables, but also meet and share ideas and experiences for a better environment.

Mr Michikazu Kojima, Senior Advisor to the President on Environmental Issues, Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), presented the case of Moana-Taka Partnership carried out by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) to cut down the cost in transporting post-consumer recyclables to recycling facilities, which are mostly located in big cities.

‘The partnership enables the free transport of recyclable waste using empty shipping containers from islands in the Pacific to other countries with proper recycling facilities,’ said Mr Kojima.

Furthermore, he emphasised the importance of a harmonised design for recycling at regional level to standardise the plastic recycling trade between ASEAN countries.

Also read: ERIA-IGES Joint Webinar on Estimating Plastic Waste and Pollution for Data-driven Policy Making in Emerging Economies at the occasion of 7th 3RINCs

Mobilising private and public financing for plastic waste reduction

Carrying out data collection and countermeasures require financial support that can be provided by public and private sectors, said Ms Angela Noronha, Director for Growth in Asia from financing company SecondMuse.

She added that despite being the major players of waste collection and aggregation in the region, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are still untapped in investment plans. Providing flexible funding to these SMEs can bridge the financing gap and create leverages to drive solutions against plastic pollution, according to Ms Noronha.

‘The Incubation Network—a 3-year program that we initiated with Circulate Capital in 2019—has disbursed a total of US$2.9 million to 100 organisations so they can improve waste management and recycling systems across South and Southeast Asia. From this, we have successfully diverted more than 148 thousand metric tons of plastic waste,’ she said.

Mr Shardul Agrawala, Head of Environment and Economy Integration Division, OECD Environment Directorate, said public sector-led development finance in tackling plastic pollution has been on an increasing trend with a consistent growth since 2015. Most of the funding comes in the form of debt instruments, with The Official Development Assistance (ODA) being the largest source of development finance.

‘However, we still need to align the financial support flow with plastic leakage hotspots. For instance, in 2018-2020, only 1.5 percent of development finance was allocated to India, which accounts for 11 percent of plastic leakage. On the contrary, 19.4 percent of finance was allocated to Europe that only accounts for 2.2 percent of plastic leakage,’ he said.