by Ellen Putri Edita and Hendro Putra Johannes • 22 September 2021

2-3 September 2021: Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), and the IGES Centre Collaborating with UNEP on Environmental Technologies (CCET) co-hosted the First Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA)’s Experts Working Group on Marine Plastic Debris meetings.

The Working Group is composed of experts from a diverse set of marine plastic related disciplines and is expected to provide technical advice to the work of ERIA’s Regional Knowledge Centre for Marine Plastic Debris (RKC-MPD). Collectively, experts will provide their knowledge on data-driven policymaking, facilitate effective regional information exchange and enrich research and analysis on marine plastics and circular economy for the ASEAN+3 region.

The meeting was attended by representatives from ERIA, IGES, CCET, as well as 14 experts from different institutions and countries, and some key partners. Mr. Takayuki Shigematsu, Deputy Director of the Office of Policy Against Marine Plastic Pollution, the Ministry of Environment of Japan (MOEJ), the main financial supporter of the RKC-MPD, reiterated Japanese government’s commitment to tackle this global pressing issue and welcomed the technical regional initiative. Dr. Vong Sok, Head of the Environment Division of the ASEAN Secretariat on the other hand, confirmed that this Working Group’s objective aligns with the recently launched ASEAN Regional Action Plan, and recommended that this Working Group should collaborate closely with ASEAN Working Group on Coastal and Marine Environment (AWGCME) and ASEAN Working Group on Chemical and Waste (AWGCW). He offered words of encouragement and expressed his hope that this Working Group will focus on solutions rather than problems to offer practical policy relevant recommendations.

In the first day of the meeting, Mr. Michikazu Kojima, Research Fellow of ERIA introduced the RKC-MPD and its planned activities for 2021-2022. He welcomed the experts to provide input and advice to ensure regional relevance and endorsement of the Scoping Paper. The second presentation was delivered by Dr. Youna Lyons from the Centre for International Law, National University of Singapore. Dr. Lyons and her team is currently creating a metadata that captures “who is researching what” on the topic of marine plastics in ASEAN+3 region, and her work sparked interest and was welcomed by the Working Group.

In the second day of the meeting, Dr. Vivek Anand Asokan, Policy Researcher of IGES presented the draft report on “Building Data on Plastic Value Chain in the ASEAN Member States” to expose existing data gaps and welcome feedback to improve our collective understanding of plastics in ASEAN. The Working Group agreed that some useful indicators and current policy trends in ASEAN countries should be incorporated to improve the report. Additionally, to tackle emerging issues in the region, the situation on COVID-19 and plastics was presented by Prof. Chettiyappan Visvanathan from Asian Institute of Technology (AIT). It was proposed that the upward trend of online purchasing and the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) leading to a significant increase of plastic waste may set in even after the pandemic is over, and consumer behaviour along with the long-term impact of the pandemic on plastic consumption need close inspection.

Mr Michikazu Kojima of ERIA and Dr. Yasuhiko Hotta, Program Director of Sustainable Consumption and Production area of IGES thanked the participants for their 2 days engagement and their future collaboration. It was announced that the meeting of the Working Group is expected to be held twice a year with possibilities of field visits once the traveling will be possible.