23 February 2022: The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), a policy research institute in Japan,  held a kick-off workshop on a project to test the effectiveness of behavioural insight to reduce the use of single-use plastics in target pilot cities and communities. Titled “Survey and Piloting of the Application of Behavioural Insights Approaches for Plastic Reduction”, the project is funded by and implemented in close collaboration with the Regional Knowledge Centre for Marine Plastic Debris of the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA).

Four partners have been selected to implement the project in four ASEAN countries, namely Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam. The implementation partners are, respectively, the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies; the Task Force on Environmental Sustainability of University of the Philippines Diliman; Chula Unisearch, Chulalongkorn University; and Southern Institute of Ecology.

The four partners will work with IGES to develop detailed implementation and monitoring plans from January to August 2023. The lessons learnt from the four pilot projects will then be summarised into an easy-to-use toolkit for local governments, businesses, and schools to apply the knowledge of behavioural insights in concrete settings. The toolkit is set to be launched in late 2023.

‘IGES has been working for sustainable lifestyle for eight years. We have supported several projects for schools and communities. We are glad to work with local partners to run the behavioural insight survey in the field,’ said Dr Atsushi Watabe, Programme Director at IGES, when opening the workshop.


Food Packaging Alternatives


Mr Michikazu Kojima, Senior Advisor of ERIA, emphasised the importance to explore solutions to tackle plastic pollution not just by implementing policies (top down), but by nudging consumer behavioural change (bottom up), and welcomed the collaboration with IGES.

‘Social behaviour of consumers is one of the most important factors that contributes to the production of plastic waste since they are the key players for the implementation of a sustainable plastic economy. Hence, a better understanding of the consumers behaviour towards plastic can help government officials, relevant organisations, and businesses in making more effective strategies,’ he said during the opening remark.

Behavioural Insights Approaches in Single-Use Plastics Reduction

The workshop aimed for the partners to get a better understanding about the objectives, steps, and timelines of the project. The partners are expected to get a sense of up-to-date applications of behavioural insight approaches in single-use plastics reduction, based on inputs from experts.

Experts and researchers working on this project along with Dr Watabe are Mr Dwayne Appleby, Programme Manager/Senior Policy Researcher on Sustainable Consumption and Production at IGES; Ms Alice Yamabe, Policy Researcher on Sustainable Consumption and Production, IGES; and Mr Sam Gray, Manager for Global Development at Rare Centre for Behaviour & the Environment.

As for the project, CSEAS Indonesia will monitor the consumption of single-use plastic in a traditional cafeteria and a café in the compound of the University of Indonesia in Depok, West Java. During the four months intervention period, the cafeteria sellers will provide weekly data on the beverage consumption without plastic straws versus with plastic straws, while the café management will collect data on coffee served in a tumbler and reusable cup versus coffee in a plastic cup.

Plastic cup for fruit juice

Meanwhile, the Philippines TFES will develop a communication strategy with food vendors at the University of the Philippines compound to encourage customers to bring their own reusable containers. They will also work to provide biodegradable/reusable alternatives to plastic food packaging by the partner food vendors to test alternative packaging acceptability and practicality. They will also apply regular collection of compostable food packaging through the implementation of a proper waste segregation system.

The team from Chula Unisearch is launching plastic-free campaign in two flea markets at Chulalongkorn University, targeting different groups. They will advocate the ban of single-use plastic carrier bags and encourage retail shops to join the campaign by using or providing biodegradable packaging materials/cutlery.

As for the Southern Institute of Ecology (SIE) in Vietnam, the team is conducting school intervention, raising awareness on waste segregation and waste issue. The team aimed to find out students’ knowledge, attitudes, and practices on single-use plastics.