May 28th, 2021, the ASEAN Secretariat has officially launched ASEAN Regional Action Plan for Combating Marine Debris in the ASEAN Member States (2021-2025) in a virtual event called “Launch of ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Combating Marine Debris in ASEAN Region”, which was organized with the support of the World Bank. The event was attended by representatives from the ASEAN member states and other related organisations. In his opening remarks, H.E. Dato Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary General of ASEAN, mentioned that most of wastes, including plastic wastes in ASEAN remain uncollected, and this occurrence leads to the massive leakage of wastes into the oceans. He added that the efforts to reduce marine debris can be conducted through variety of actions, such as the use of reusable and recyclable materials, enhancement of waste management, and better access to technology and solution. Furthermore, H.E. Dato Lim Jock Hoi emphasized that addressing the issue of marine debris in the Southeast Asia is fundamental in fostering economic growth in this region.
The regional action plan was developed in response to the increasing volume of solid waste and marine debris across Southeast Asia. According to the document, countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Viet Nam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore have generated up to 243 million tons of waste in 2016. Of the 243 million tons, more than 50% is uncollected and this, coupled with the sheer volume of plastic in the municipal waste will make the potential amount of plastic leakage into the oceans preoccupying. To overcome the challenge, the regional action plan sets out four main actions that need to be enforced to address the issue. The four actions are: (1) policy support and planning, (2) research, innovation, and capacity building, (3) public awareness, education, and outreach, and (4) private sector engagement. The implementation of the four actions is then divided into three phases: planning, implementation, as well as monitoring, reporting, and evaluation, starting in 2021 finalized by 2025.
The regional action plan also recognizes some existing initiatives in the region on the topic of marine debris. For knowledge sharing and research, the Regional Knowledge Centre for Marine Plastic Debris (RKC-MPD), managed by Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) and Regional Capacity Center for Clean Seas (RC3S), managed by the government of Indonesia were cited among the key regional players.
It is expected that current initiatives on research efforts can collaborate with each other to strengthen information and solution sharing related to marine debris. The collaboration, according to the action plan, can further help reducing the gap between research institutions and innovation initiatives in the ASEAN member states.