National Framework to Tackle Marine Plastic Debris

National Laws and Regulations

Three major laws and regulations tackle marine plastic litter issue in Brunei Darussalam. The Prevention of Pollution of the Sea Order 2005 aims to prevent disposal of waste from ships, including refuse, garbage, effluents, plastics, and dangerous pollutants. Section 5(1) states that ‘… if any disposal or discharge of refuse, garbage, waste matter, trade effluent, plastics or marine pollutant in packaged form occurs from any ship into Brunei Darussalam waters, the master, the owner and the agent of the ship shall each be guilty of an offence …’. Section 16(1) states that any direct or indirect discharge from ships of refuse, garbage, waste, plastics, effluents, and dangerous pollutants into any part of the sea or waters in Brunei Darussalam shall be charged for recovery costs.


The Prevention of Pollution of the Sea (Garbage) Regulations 2008, especially Section 4(1), specifies plastic discharge prohibition, covering all plastics, including but not limited to synthetic ropes, synthetic fishing nets, and plastic garbage bags. The Law of Brunei Chapter 30 Minor Offences Act 1929 prohibits littering in public. Environmental Protection and Management Order 2016, specifically Section 41(1), authorises the minister to make regulations that are necessary or expedient to carry out the order’s provisions. Section 41(2)(f) states that ‘… the Minister may also impose requirements with respect to control of land pollution, including industrial waste, domestic waste and littering’. Hazardous Waste (Control of Export, Import and Transit) Order 2013 prohibits the transboundary movement of plastic waste unless the person importing or exporting is authorised to do so. Following recent amendments to the country’s customs import and excise duties, which took effect on 1 April 2017, the volume of plastic and plastic products for import is to be reduced by imposing a 3% excise duty on them (Ministry of Finance, 2017).


The Ministry of Development has launched campaigns on plastic waste reduction, such as the promotion of reusable bags during the commemoration of World Environment Day in 2008 (Ministry of Development, 2019). The ‘No Plastic Bag Weekend’ was launched on 26 March 2011 to phase out plastic bag use every Saturday and Sunday, and then every Friday (since 16 February 2012), Thursday (since 19 April 2018), Wednesday (since 11 July 2018), Tuesday (since 2 October 2018), and Monday (since 31 December 2018). In 2013, the Ministry of Development launched a campaign to reduce styrofoam packaging by advising schools to reduce the use of styrofoam containers in their canteens (Ministry of Development, 2019b). Three schools (Sekolah Menengah Sayyidina Hasan, Maktab Duli Pengiran Muda Al-Muhtadee Billah, and Pusat Tingkatan Enam Katok) have successfully followed this campaign.

Local Regulations


Local governments have limited regulations to combat marine plastic litter and mainly implement, through their municipal boards, national laws and regulations such as the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea Order 2005, the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea (Garbage) Regulations 2008, and the Environmental Protection and Management Order 2016. Municipal boards comply with the Law of Brunei Chapter 57 Municipal Board 1921, which requires them to take all lawful measures for several purposes, including the removal and disposal of refuse within their areas of control (Section 4). The municipal board has the power to determine levies, especially for sewage treatment and disposal. Section 12 states: ‘An annual rate for the general purposes of this Act, including also the purposes of public lighting, public water supply public sewers, sewage treatment and disposal, and protection from fire, may be imposed upon all lands and upon all houses and buildings within any Municipal Board area not exceeding 15 per centum of their annual value, such rate shall be fixed from time to time by His Majesty in Council after consultation with the Municipal Board and shall be payable by half-yearly instalments in advance without demand by the owners of such lands, houses or buildings in the months of January and July in each year’.

Action Plans and Roadmaps


The government has set strategies to reduce the generation of solid waste nationwide through two action plans: waste minimisation through 3-R (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle) and targeting of a 15% waste recycling rate by 2020 (Energy and Industry Department, 2017) and 30% by 2035 (Akenji et al., 2019).


3-R is taking place, particularly amongst the younger generation. The Recycle 123 Handbook (, using captivating graphics and a ‘did-you-know’ style of delivering content, targets the youth. In 2009, the Brunei Environment Youth Envoy (EYE) was established under the guidance of the Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation. It aims to (1) nurture and build a network to foster environmental awareness and action amongst youth at the national and regional levels, (2) collaborate and cooperate on environmental sustainability projects, and (3) enhance environmental knowledge and build capacity to share and impart it to the youth (Brunei Darussalam, 2013). The Brunei EYE has successfully carried out 3-R awareness programmes in five primary schools in Kampong Ayer, a water village on the Brunei River, and two inland primary schools (Brunei Darussalam, 2013). The Department of Environment, Parks and Recreation supports several secondary schools through its eco-clubs, which are run by students and guided by teachers to encourage them to be involved in environmental projects and activities such as beach clean-up.


The recycling rate target of 15% by 2027and 30% by 2035 shall be achieved through waste-reduction efforts, including campaigns to transition to reusable bags, the ‘No Plastic Bag Every Day’ initiative, and reduction of styrofoam containers use; installation of recycling bins for paper, plastics, and metals in waste collection centres in the Brunei Muara District and in other schools and universities; and composting initiatives for green wastes (Brunei Darussalam, 2013).


A related action plan was formulated based on the Tenth National Development Plan (2012–2017): the second 5-year plan under the Brunei Darussalam Long-Term Development Plan (2007–2035). The plan enhances the provision of a healthy and clean environment, including efficient use of national resources, provision and enforcement of legislation, effective solid waste management, and harmonisation of national commitments and international best practices (Department of Economic Planning and Development, 2012).

International Agreement

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Ministries and Coordination Mechanism: Malaysia


Malaysia’s Roadmap Towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018–2030 first addressed the establishment of an institutional framework and governance mechanism to combat marine plastic litter. Through the Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change (MESTECC), the federal government will lead in implementing the framework. The state governments will mobilise technical implementation through the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Kementerian Perumahan dan Kerajaan Tempatan [KPKT]) and the Ministry of Territories, with the former tasked to develop and deploy a communication, education, and public-awareness programme. The coordination team is formed based on a government mechanism, which is divided into a joint ministerial committee and joint steering committee.

Taking on the major functions of the coordination team, the joint ministerial committee will direct implementation; ensure that actions are implemented on time and effectively; monitor progress towards goals and targets; facilitate the implementation of state, district, and local government actions; provide an avenue for inter-agency planning amongst state agencies; and identify means to strengthen cooperation between the federal and state governments (MESTECC, 2018). The membership structure of the committee is as follows.

Table 1. Membership Structure of the Joint Ministerial Committee


Minister of MESTECC 

Minister of KPKT 


Minister of MESTECC 

Minister of KPKT 

Environment and local government executive committee of each state 

Secretary general or representatives from federal and state agencies 

Other members by invitation 

Source: MESTECC (2018).

The joint steering committee will ensure that the coordination team functions well. The committee will collect and review inputs from institutions, committees, and forums to further assess the effectiveness of implementation; ensure that resources are mobilised in a timely manner; resolve conflicts; and mobilise ad-hoc taskforces for specific issues (MESTECC, 2018). The membership structure of the committee is as follows.

Table 2. Membership Structure of the Joint Steering Committee


Secretary General of MESTECC 

Secretary General of KPKT 


Secretary General of MESTECC 

Secretary General of KPKT 

State Secretary 

Representatives from federal and state agencies 

Other members by invitation  

Source: MESTECC (2018).


National Laws and Regulations: Malaysia


Malaysia’s Roadmap Towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018–2030 provides that the legal framework on single-use plastics will be developed mainly in the first phase (2018–2021) and second phase (2022–2025) of the roadmap. The first phase will focus on publishing new eco-labelling ECO001 criteria, including the use of only biodegradable and compostable products and the prohibition of photodegradable and oxo-degradable products. Consumers should adopt the ‘no straw by default’ policy of hypermarkets, supermarkets, departmental stores, convenience stores, fast-food restaurants, convenience stores in petrol stations, chain stores, and pharmacies. Consumers are encouraged to bring their own food containers or buy food containers that comply with ECO001 and ECO009. States will charge consumers a minimum of RM0.20 per plastic bag. Malaysia has banned plastic straws in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Labuan (Asia One, 2018) since 01 January 2019 and in Selangor since 01 July 2019 (The Star, 2019), following the ban on plastic bags and polystyrene food packaging in September 2017. In the second phase, the scope of biodegradable and compostable products will be expanded; the Circular Economy Roadmap for plastics, including bottles and other single-use products, implemented; a pollution levy imposed on plastic bag manufacturers; alternative eco-friendly products funded; and a rapid testing kit for ECO001-compliant material developed.

Malaysia has several basic national laws and regulations on waste management.

Environmental Quality Act 1974 states that ‘[n]o person shall, unless licenced, discharge environmentally hazardous substances, pollutants, or wastes into the Malaysian waters … (Section 29)’.

Promotion of Investments Act 1986 gives fiscal incentives for the manufacture of biodegradable packaging and household ware as well as waste-recycling activities listed as promoted products and activities (UNEP, 2018). Manufacturers and promoters of such products and activities are eligible for pioneer status and investment tax allowance.

Environmental Quality (Scheduled Wastes) Regulations 2005 classify scheduled wastes. Part II of the first schedule classifies the following as scheduled waste: rags; plastics; paper; or filters contaminated with paint or ink or organic solvents from motor vehicle assembly plants, metal works, electronic or semiconductor plants, and printing or packaging plants (S251).

Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Act 2007, part IV, states that any solid waste management services and facilities or any public cleansing management services require a licence from the Director General of Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management. Chapter 30(1) of part V states that ‘[t]he Minister may from time to time prescribe, either separately or as a consolidated rate, controlled solid waste charges, fees, or levy which shall be paid by (a) the owner; (b) the occupier; (c) the local authority; or (d) any other person, to whom solid waste management services are provided under this Act’. In line with part IV, part VIII states that all controlled solid waste shall be deposited, treated, kept, stored, or disposed of only at licenced solid waste management facilities. In addition, any person in possession of any controlled solid waste shall take all reasonable measures to prevent the escape of any controlled solid waste from his possession. Reduction, reuse, and recycling efforts are enhanced by imposing several requirements in part X, including a take-back system and deposit refund system. Malaysia has, since September 2015, enforced mandatory solid waste separation, especially at the source of waste, in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Johor, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Kedah, and Perlis (Yusof et al., 2019).

Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management (Licensing) (Undertaking or Provision of Public Cleansing Management Services) Regulations 2011 provide further information to any person who intends to apply for a licence, which shall have a duration of not less than 2 years but shall not exceed 5 years. The licensee shall pay the annual licence fee of RM100.


Ministries and Coordination Mechanism: Singapore


The marine plastic litter issue is addressed by the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) through the National Environment Agency (NEA). NEA coordinates international and regional cooperation with different stakeholders. International coordination is usually facilitated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For example, as a part of the Singapore Cooperation Programme, established in 1992, NEA through the Singapore Environment Institute organised in March 2019 the Singapore–Norway Third Country Training Programme titled Regional Training Programme on Waste Management and Reduction of Marine Litter.  The programme aims to share the policy frameworks and practices adopted by Singapore and Norway in waste management and reduction of marine litter, focusing on plastics and microplastics, and to look into proven best practices in Southeast Asia and elsewhere (SCP, 2019).


Ministries and Coordination Mechanism: China


In general, solid waste management in China is supervised by several ministries (Table 1).

Table 1. Ministries and Their Roles in Solid Waste Management in China



Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development  

Collection, transportation, treatment and/or discharge management of municipal solid waste 

Ministry of Ecology and Environment 

Industrial and hazardous waste management 

Ministry of Commerce  

Restoration and distribution supervision of recyclable waste materials 

National Development and Report Commission  

Process and application management of recyclable waste materials  

Ministry of Agriculture  

Agricultural waste management 

Source: Liu (2017).

Through the Marine Environment Protection Law of China 1999, the country employs several departments that specifically control marine environment protection (Table 2).

Table 2. Departments in Charge of Marine Environment Protection



Department of Marine Ecology and Environment (under the Ministry of Ecology and Environment) 

Supervision of national marine environment protection and marine pollution control caused by land-based pollutants and coastal construction projects 

State Oceanic Administration (under the Ministry of Natural Resources) 

Supervision of marine environment; organisation of survey, surveillance, supervision, assessment, and scientific research of marine environment; national marine environment protection against pollution damage from construction projects and wastes dumped into the sea 

Maritime Safety Administration (under the Ministry of Transport) 

Management of marine environment pollution caused by non-military vessels and non-fishery vessels, investigation of pollution accidents 

The Bureau of Fisheries (under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs) 

Supervision of marine environment pollution from non-military vessels and fishing vessels, ecological environment safeguards in the fishing zones, control of fishery pollution accidents 

The Chinese People’s Armed Police Force (under the Central Military Commission and the State Council) 

Management of marine pollution caused by military vessels, investigation of pollution accidents by military vessels 

Source: Government of China (2019).