General Explanation


To prevent marine plastic litter, various policies, such as reducing the use of single-use plastics, preventing littering, expanding waste collection services, recycling, and proper treatment and disposal, have been applied in this region. Collecting waste from river, beaches, and ocean are also important.

Reduction: Prohibition or Levy


Plastic pollution, a major threat to the marine environment (McNicholas and Cotton, 2019), is predicted to worsen by 2025 as a result of rapid population growth and insufficient waste management. If the current condition continues, the oceans will have more plastic than fish by 2050 (World Economy Forum, 2016).

The plastic bag is one of the most popular and essential plastic products in modern culture as it is flexible, light, strong, water resistant, and cheap. The plastic bag, however, raises serious concerns due to its long duration of decomposition, low recycle rate, and negative environmental and human health impacts, making the product the most discussed plastic material at different levels of public policy for more than a decade (Nielsen, Holmberg, and Striple, 2019). Levy is one of several types of policy tools to limit the use of plastic bags (UNEP, 2018). Levy is an obligation to pay a certain amount to the government or other authorities (Oyedele, 2014). The levy on plastic bags is a levy on suppliers (domestic producers or importers) of plastic bags, on retailers purchasing plastic bags, and on consumers, charged at point of sale with a standard price set by law (UNEP, 2018). The plastic bag levy, usually about US$0.05 per bag, raises awareness of consumers about this issue (Rivers, Shenstone-Harris, and Young, 2016).

The Government of Malaysia applies the plastic bag levy on consumers through No Plastic Bag Campaign Day, which once a week levies RM0.2 (US$0.049) per plastic bag in supermarkets and grocery stores. The policy aims to promote sustainable consumption. However, research shows no significant behavioural change arising from the campaign. Even though plastic bag consumption decreased in the first 6 months of the policy’s enactment, this was a result of people shifting their shopping habits to avoid the No Plastic Bag Campaign Day. Some shoppers even bought more plastic bags as their own bags were not big enough (Zen, Ahamad, and Omar, 2013).   

In Indonesia, members of the Parliament have postponed enactment of a plastic bag levy proposed by the minister of finance. Previously, the country had undertaken a pilot project to implement a plastic bag levy on consumers at selected retailers in 23 cities. The result was a 40% average reduction in the number of plastic bags used (UNEP, 2018). The finance minister took a step further and advocated a levy of Rp200 (US$0.015) per plastic bag (Suroyo, 2019), with the revenue to be used for a waste management trial project (Pratama, 2019). The idea, however, met opposition from plastic producers, who argued that other materials such as rubber also have negative impacts on the environment. The levy on plastic was not fair, they argued, because it could collapse plastic industries. Plastic producers urged the government to further promote recycling industries instead of imposing a levy on plastic (Suroyo, 2019).

The senior minister of state for the environment and water resources of Singapore believes that plastic bags are required largely by people who live in a tropical climate for hygienic purposes.  She argues that a levy on plastic bags, which could lead to substitution of more environmentally friendly products such as disposable and paper bags, does not necessarily reduce environmental degradation since disposable and paper bags degrade the environment in a different way (Boh and Tan, 2018). Her argument is based on the findings from the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources and National Environment Agency, showing that the production of disposable and paper bags requires excessive amounts of water and resources and generates carbon emissions. The latter implies that the greener plastic bags will still create massive carbon emissions if they are incinerated. In fact, instead of going to landfills, most of wastes in Singapore end up being incinerated. Thus, despite the proposal by members of Parliament to impose a plastic bag levy, the government has not endorsed any ban or charge on plastic bags or single-use plastic products (Boh and Tan, 2018; Royte, 2019).

In other parts of the world, levies to reduce plastic pollution are imposed not only on plastic bags but also on other plastic products. Ireland, for instance, has its ‘latte levy’, to be nationally imposed in 2021, that charges up to US$0.27 for a single-use plastic cup. In ASEAN and the Pacific countries, the plastic levy is still mostly imposed only on plastic bags. Although the range of products subject to the plastic levy is still limited, several countries in the region have enacted regulations to prohibit single-use plastics, which cover several plastic products.

Another policy tool from regulatory instruments referred to by UNEP (2018) is prohibition. In Indonesia, Bali Province enacted Regulation of the Governor of Bali No. 97/2018 on the Restrictions on the Generation of Disposable Plastic Waste Collection. Per this regulation, production, distribution, supply, provision, and consumption of disposable plastics, consisting of plastic bags, Styrofoam, and plastic straws, are no longer allowed. New products must replace disposable plastics. In line with what has been done by Bali Province, Bogor Municipality issued Regulation of Mayor of Bogor No. 61/2018 on the Reduction of the Use of Plastic Bags, which restricts the provision of plastic bags to consumers in all shopping centres and modern stores.

The Government of Thailand has issued Thailand’s Roadmap on Plastic Waste Management 2018–2030 that, amongst others, will ban in 2022 lightweight plastic bags (less than 36 microns). However, due to the deaths of marine animals after swallowing plastic, the ban has been moved up to 2020. Consumers started bringing their own shopping bags in early 2020 (Vassanadumrongdee and Marks, 2020). 

Malaysia has issued Malaysia’s Roadmap Towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018–2030, which regulates the use of plastic items, including plastic straws, single-use plastic bags, food packaging, cutlery, food containers, medical equipment, and many more.  In the first phase of the roadmap, starting 2019,  provision of plastic straws without requests from consumers in fixed premises such as hypermarkets, supermarkets, department stores, convenient stores, fast-food restaurants, petrol station convenience stores, chain stores, and pharmacies was no longer allowed. In the second phase, starting 2022, the ban on plastic straws will be expanded to include non-fixed premises. Moreover, biodegradable and compostable items will be developed to replace conventional plastic products.

The Province of Jilin, China, has issued the Regulation on the Prohibition of Production, Sales, and Provision of Disposable Non-Degradable Plastic Shopping Bags and Plastic Tableware. Per this regulation, production, selling, and provision of plastic bags and plastic tableware are restricted to commodity sales and commercial service activities. Shopping malls, shops, and market organisers are required to monitor the implementation of the plastic ban.

Nationwide, China implements a combination of regulatory and economic instruments by banning and levying plastic bags simultaneously. In 2008, the Government of China imposed a ban on plastic bags  thinner than 25 microns and a levy on thicker ones. Chinese consumers were then introduced to durable cloth bags and shopping baskets to replace plastic bags. Within a year, the efforts showed significant progress as shown by the reduced use (up to 70% on average) of plastic bags in supermarkets. Seven years since the enactment of the ban and levy, China has successfully reduced two-thirds of plastic bags used in supermarkets and shopping malls. Such success, however, has not been experienced in rural areas, where use of plastic bags persists (UNEP, 2018).


Reduction: Biodegradable and Compostable Plastics


Knowing the difference between bio-based, biodegradable, and other related materials is fundamental to avoid misinterpretation. Bio-based and biodegradable materials are not similar.  Bio-based materials are fully or partly made from biomass, while biomass is made of biological elements. Since they are made from renewable sources, bio-based materials can balance greenhouse gas and reduce environmental degradation caused by disposal of oil-based polymers. Biodegradable materials can be broken down by bacteria or fungi into water, biomass, and natural gas such as carbon dioxide and methane. The ability to biodegrade depends on temperature, microorganisms, oxygen, and water. Biodegradable plastics  must be separated from conventional plastics for recycling because biodegradable plastics contain chemicals that lower the recycling rate if mixed with conventional plastics (Plastic Recyclers Europe, 2018). Some biodegradable materials are also compostable or can be broken down through industrial composting (Oakes, 2019; Van den Oever et al., 2017). However, such composting is not necessarily applied in home or ocean composting environments or other natural environments (The Norwegian Environment Agency, 2018). Industrial composting is performed under temperatures of 55°C–60°C, with high humidity, and in the presence of oxygen (Van den Oever et al., 2017). Based on European standard EN 13432, which regulates compostable packaging, industrial compostable packaging must be decomposed after 12 weeks and completely biodegraded after 6 months. The result of this process is 90% carbon dioxide and 10% water and biomass. Oxo-biodegradable or oxo-degradable plastic is a common material that contains an additive that helps break it down. Photodegradable plastic is similar to conventional plastic as it is derived from oil-based polymers. It will break down into small pieces rather than completely decompose if exposed to sunlight.

Global statistics show that 2.05 million tonnes of bio-based and biodegradable plastic and 335 million tonnes of conventional plastic were produced in 2017, accounting for about 0.6% of the plastics market. Of conventional plastic, 50.1% is produced mainly in Asia, with China contributing 29.4%, Japan 3.9%, and the rest of Asia 16.8%. Bio-based and biodegradable plastics are more expensive than conventional ones. A price comparison shows that a cup made from polylactic acid (PLA) is 30%–50% more expensive than a cup made from fossil-based plastic (The Norwegian Environment Agency, 2018).

The Government of Malaysia has launched Malaysia’s Roadmap Towards Zero Single-Use Plastics 2018–2030 to achieve zero single-use plastics by 2030. During phase 1 (2018–2021) the Standard and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia will revise ECO001, the ecolabelling criteria for degradable and compostable plastic packaging materials, to incorporate only biodegradable and compostable products and exclude photodegradable and oxo-degradable products. During phase 2 (2022–2025), the scope of biodegradable and compostable products will be extended, consisting of food packaging, plastic film, cutleries, food containers, cotton buds, polybags and plant pots, and slow-release fertilisers. During phase 3 (2026–2030), the volume of local biodegradable and compostable products will significantly increase and the scope of biodegradable and compostable products extended, including single-use medical equipment, diapers and women’s sanitary products, and other single-use plastics not included in circular economy.

In response to the massive discharge of plastic wastes to the sea, Indonesia’s Ministry of Industry is committed to promote sustainable and environmentally friendly industry by encouraging producers to produce biodegradable plastic. The ministry hopes that production of biodegradable plastics can be multiplied up to 10 times within 2 years. This movement targets not only cover replacement of shopping bags but also all types of packaging in both modern and traditional markets. Statistics show a 200 tonnes/year current capacity of national biodegradable plastic. Plastic consumption in Indonesia reaches 5 million tonnes/year, which indicates the need to produce biodegradable plastic to meet the demand for it.

In 2002, the Government of Japan introduced the Biotechnology Strategic Scheme and the Biomass Nippon Strategy to encourage the use of biomass, reduce fossil fuel consumption, and lessen global warming through biotechnology. The Biotechnology Strategic Scheme aims to replace 20% of conventional plastic with renewable resources by 2020, while the Biomass Nippon Strategy promotes development of biomass towns and the use of biofuels. Biomass Nippon has successfully driven companies to enhance their research and development on bio-based plastic. The Ministry of Environment allocated JPY5 billion (about US$45 million) in 2019 to develop a biodegradable plastic and subsidy provision for companies that produce plastic replacements (Barrett, 2018). About 33%–50% of the price of equipment to produce plastic alternatives can be covered by the ministry. The government is planning to create an international standard for marine biodegradable plastics. Companies are working to develop such plastics, while the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry and other experts are formulating specifications. A leader in research and development of marine biodegradable plastic, Japan is expected to boost industrial competitiveness by developing the standard.

Since 2013, the Government of China has helped fund bio-plastic industries to support local businesses and develop such industries all over the country. In 2016, biodegradable plastic consumption increased by up to 13.2% (GCIS, 2017). In this regard, many Chinese plastic producers start switching their plastic materials to biodegradable ones, such as corn, sugar, and other yields (Swift, 2009).


Waste Management: Collection from Waste Generators


The World Bank defines waste collection as transporting waste from where it is produced (settlements, and industrial commercial and institutional areas) to a site for treatment or disposal. Research on a waste collection multi-objective model says that waste collection, although visible municipal work, requires high investment and operational and environmental services cost. Another problem is the unequal collection rate amongst countries. A report from the World Bank shows a 48% collection rate in low-income countries. The figure is even lower (26%) outside urban areas. For instance, the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Investment of Indonesia shows that the percentage of plastic waste leakage into the seas, lakes, and rivers in rural areas of that country is almost four times higher than in urban areas due to the high volume of mismanaged wastes from dumping on land and in dumpsites and open burning. In contrast, high-income countries, such as those in Europe, North America, and Central Asia, can collect at least 90% of wastes.

A waste collection system has containers for waste, a management method, waste pickup, and collection vehicles. In general, several methods are used to collect wastes from waste generators and bring them to waste treatment or disposal plants. Municipal solid waste  can be collected in five ways: house to house, where wastes are collected individually from generators’ houses by paid waste collectors; community bins, where wastes are brought by generators to community bins; curb-side pickup, where wastes are placed outside generators’ houses and picked up on schedule; self-delivered, where wastes are delivered directly to disposal or transfer points; and contracted or delegated service, where wastes are collected on schedule by appointed firms and customers pay the charges.

Japan uses the curb-side method, where household wastes are collected by residents based on schedules set by municipalities. For example, in a particular area, Mondays and Thursdays are assigned for burnable waste, Tuesdays for recyclable waste, and Fridays for non-burnable waste. Different areas in a particular city may have different schedules for collection. Before collection, wastes are first sorted by residents. Some wastes require specific treatment. For instance, milk cartons must first be washed, rinsed, dried, flattened, and bundled along with other cartons. For polyethylene terephthalate or PET bottles, labels must be removed and bottlecaps separately collected. Bottlecap rings may be separated before bottles are crushed in a recycling facility. Many cities have guidebooks on how to dispose of waste (Table 1).

Table 1. Waste Disposal Guidebooks (in English) of Several Cities in Japan





Minato Ward in Tokyo





Waste-sorting classification differs amongst cities.  Classification is determined by the local government, taking into account the intermediate treatment plants it operates and the downstream industries that recycle or treat specific wastes.

In the Philippines, local governments handle the collection of non-recyclable waste as mandated by Republic Act 9003. For example, Metro Manila mainly implements the house-to-house method for collecting wastes. A detailed plan, comprising waste collection service, routes, and vehicles, is managed by the local government. Marikina City, in Metro Manila, provides waste collection service in its barangays (the smallest administrative unit). Wastes from households, markets, and commercial areas are collected based on two categories: biodegradable and non-biodegradable. Biodegradable wastes are delivered to disposal sites, where they are compacted and covered with soil. Non-biodegradable wastes are distributed to recycling stations for sorting. The sorted recyclable wastes are stored temporarily before being handed over to downstream recyclers.

Besides providing waste collection service in general, some ASEAN+3 countries have several programmes to specifically manage recyclable wastes. In Indonesia, the Bank Sampah or the Waste Bank is an example of a programme to collect recyclable wastes, which are bought for certain prices, depending on their type and cleanliness (Kojima, 2019). In the city of Malang, the Bank Sampah programme is facilitated by the local government through the Cleaning and Gardening Agency to encourage active public participation in municipal waste management from the source. Bank Sampah Malang has greatly influenced the perspective of the local people, who used to see waste as a problem and now see it as a source of money. The programme targets housewives since they are central in managing household wastes. 

Similar to the waste bank is the buy-back centre, which buys collected recyclable wastes from dealers, including junk shops, at a determined price. This practice is different from the old collection method, where collectors buy wastes at a low price. Buy-back centres have been established in countries such as Thailand and the Philippines. For example, Wongpanit, a junk shop franchise in Thailand, posts buying prices in front of its shops and on its website to encourage people to bring in recyclable wastes.

In the Philippines, recyclable wastes are recovered in barangay materials recovery facilities (MRFs). Their establishment is regulated under the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2001. MRFs are classified as clean or dirty. Clean MRFs are established where wastes have been properly separated at source. Dirty MRFs sometimes have composting units to manage separated biodegradable wastes. This type of facility frequently generates leachate and emissions.  An MRF can process 1–5 tonnes of mixed wastes daily. It starts by registering, inspecting, and placing wastes based on their type in a  receiving unit, where bulky materials are directly sold or disposed of into landfill, while mixed wastes are treated further. Biodegradable materials in mixed wastes are then composted or distributed to a disposal facility. An alternative is placing biodegradable materials where they will be picked up by collection trucks. For recyclable wastes that have been sorted from source, collection starts with weighing and storing them in designated bins (paper, cans, metals). Once a sufficient amount is collected, wastes receive different treatment: tin cans are compacted; plastic bottles are cut, flattened, and bundled; paper materials are piled up; and glasses are crushed. Lastly, residual materials are temporarily stored and then disposed into sanitary landfills or fed into waste-to-energy plants as fuel.

In April 2018, the mayor of Surabaya in Indonesia initiated a pilot programme that lets passengers use plastic waste instead of money to pay for bus tickets.  Passengers can collect ten plastic cups, or five medium-sized plastic water bottles, or three large plastic water bottles for a one-way bus ticket. After enthusiastic response from the locals, the government of Surabaya started planning to add 10–20 buses to its fleet. Unfortunately, the programme still faces the challenge of managing the collected plastic waste. It is reportedly to be delivered to Bank Sampah Induk Surabaya (Surabaya Central Waste Bank) but the lack of local regulation to determine the economic value of plastic waste has inhibited waste delivery to the waste bank.


Waste Management: Proper Treatment and Disposal


Per the hierarchy of waste management, waste can be treated and disposed through five major pathways: reduction, reuse, recycling and composting, energy recovery, and landfill, each of which has its challenges in implementation. Several types of plastic, such as thermoset, for example, cannot be recycled. Unlike conventional thermoplastic, thermoset is highly popular because of its stronger dimensional stability and higher chemical resistance and is used in many automotive industries, adhesives, coatings, shore structures, clean energy production, solar cells, and electronic packaging utensils. Unfortunately, the material cannot be dissolved or melted (Yue et al., 2019).

Disposal into landfill is the most common treatment of wastes from municipal, construction and demolition, and industrial activities, but landfill is considered to be a source of marine plastic debris. Research on potential sources of microplastic demonstrates that microplastic can enter the environment through leachate leakage. The geomembrane component of a composite liner in landfills, which aims to prevent groundwater pollution, can leak even if operated under high control (Foose et al., 2001). Even though leachate treatment is more complex than municipal wastewater treatment because it comprises biological, physical, chemical, and membrane treatment to eliminate chemical contamination, the process cannot thermally, chemically, and biologically remove microplastic. The treatment only changes microplastic distribution, where high-density microplastic accumulates at the bottom of the basin and then becomes sludge and final effluent. Besides being disposed through leachate, microplastic can be found in the landfill itself. The fine soil-like fraction of landfill tends to accumulate microplastic, which is eventually distributed by wind or surface run-off to marine environment. The microplastic can be discharged from landfill through ventilation in aerated bioreactors or closed landfills. Yet, a huge amount of plastic is still disposed into landfills, contributing 21%–42% of global plastic waste production. 

The Philippines, through Republic Act No. 9003 on Ecological Solid Waste Management Program, has endorsed the implementation of sanitary landfills instead of open and controlled dumps. Section 37 states that open and controlled dumps in local government units (LGUs) must be closed in 3–5 years after the issuance of the regulation. Sanitary landfill is defined as a site to dispose waste, and is designed, constructed, operated, and maintained under engineering control to reduce potential environmental impacts from development and operation of the facility. Section 41 states that to establish sanitary landfill, liners and leachate collection and treatment system must be provided. Liners aim to reduce or prevent groundwater contamination, while leachate collection and treatment system aim to collect leachate for storage and eventual treatment and discharge. Based on the Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 9003, sanitary landfill must have at least 6 inches of daily cover every day. Initially, the daily cover is applied to prevent waste from long-term contact with the environment. For a landfill area that will not be used for at least 180 days, an additional 6-inch-thick interim soil cover must be applied over the existing daily cover.  Republic Act 9003 has had a significant impact, with illegal dumpsites decreasing from 806 to 353 in 10 years. The number of sanitary landfills grew, from 33 sanitary landfills serving 78 LGUs in 2010 to 165 sanitary landfills serving 353 LGUs in 2018 (Environmental Management Bureau, 2018). The combined liners, daily cover, and leachate collection and treatment in sanitary landfill can help reduce microplastic.

Bukit Tagar Sanitary Landfill in Malaysia, an advanced landfill treatment, is a government privatisation project with a capacity up to 120 million tonnes of waste. Although all landfills potentially leak, the design of Bukit Tagar Sanitary Landfill applies the highest level of sanitary landfill standards of the United States Environmental Protection Agency through a multi-layer base liner to block leachate infiltration to the soil. Collected leachate goes to a treatment plant that uses mainly a biological reaction process combined with chemical dosing. After being purified in the treatment plant, the leachate is further polished by reed beds technology  to achieve zero residue.

Incineration has become the second most common option after landfill for waste treatment and disposal. Combustible wastes, such as municipal solid waste, hazardous waste, clinical waste, and industrial waste, are suitable for treatment by incineration (Williams, 2004). Combustion control is taken into account to prevent incomplete combustion, which can result in dioxins and furans. A well-designed incinerator enables controlled air flows, leading to generation of high temperatures and clean burn. Based on EPA 1990, the recommended temperatures for the primary chamber of the incinerator is 540–980 degrees Celsius, and for the secondary chamber 980–1,200 degrees Celsius (WHO, n.d.). Production of dioxin in large-scale incineration can be minimised through fast cooling combustion, where time spent in 200–450 degree Celsius is shortened, leading to generation of cleaner combustion (Environment Australia,1999; Soares, 2015).

Incineration technology has been a concern of the Government of Japan since the enactment of the Act on Emergency Measures Concerning the Development of Living Environment Facilities in 1963 (Ministry of Environment of Japan, 2014). Japan has incineration plants spread across the country that apply strict policies to reduce pollution. Japan has discovered that the conventional stoker furnace is the most reliable technology. As a result, stoker furnace technology is used in 70% of incineration plants. The main difference between a stoker furnace and a conventional one is that the former allows higher combustion quality derived from lower combustion air ratio, improvement of combustion gas and air mixing, improvement of oxygen-enriched combustion and combustion quality, and generation of evenly burnt materials with infusion of high temperature air. The secondary chamber of the latest stoker furnace technology reaches 1,000 degree Celsius to ensure complete combustion reaction (Ministry of Environment of Japan, 2012). In the city of Kyoto, the replacement of multiple-heart furnace by stoker furnace has shown positive impacts, including 50% ash reduction, 77% reduction of energy consumption, and 18% reduction of operating cost (Ito, 1991).

Waste treatment and disposal are highly dependent on cost. The United Nations Environment Programme notes that in waste management, the financial cost is divided into investment and operation costs. Investment cost is usually prioritised since it is related to modernisation of waste management infrastructure, such as equipment and technology. Operation cost, which accounts for up to 60%–70% total cost of waste management, covering labour, fuel, energy, maintenance and repair, emission control and monitoring, income collection, public communication, and management and administration, is frequently overlooked. While investment cost can be easily estimated, operation cost is difficult to estimate because of various aggregation methods used to calculate budgets. For example, allocation of operation cost in cities sometimes overlaps with other public utilities because waste management is not regarded as a common activity. This leads to cities’ lack of allocation for operation cost. Unavailable data on operation is another reason why determining operation cost is complicated and challenging.


Waste Management: Waste Reception Facility at Port


Marine litter and pollution have severely damaged the marine environment. Although land-based source contributes about 80% to marine litter, sea-based sources must also be taken into account to directly maintain the marine environment and indirectly protect human health. Marine litter and pollution increase acidity of oceans, chemical contamination of the food chain, and death of marine animals. Thus, provision of reasonably cost-effective port waste reception facilities should be promoted to reduce sea-based marine pollution.

The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) has proposed restrictions on waste discharges from ships at sea. The convention contains annexes that introduce the need to provide port waste reception facilities for certain types of waste without causing undue delays to ships: Annex I for oil and oily water, Annex II for noxious liquid substances in bulk, Annex III for harmful substances carried by sea in packaged form, Annex IV for sewage from ships, Annex V for garbage from ships, and Annex VI for air pollution from ships. MARPOL emphasises that port waste reception facilities must have a range of adequacies: the facilities must be enough to accommodate all wastes from ships, not create undue delays for vessels that use them, contain enough information so that the ships’ authorities are aware of their existence and are encouraged to use them, and developed regionally to establish cooperation with other ports within a country. The authorities must ensure that technological requirements of reception facilities are followed in accordance with end disposal and residues management. In general, reception facilities must provide three main services: waste receptacles, collection facilities, and recycling and/or final disposal facilities. The three facilities must be capable of handling all wastes. For receptacle facilities, adequate size, space, and number are required to accommodate seasonal variation of waste disposal demand.

After ratifying MARPOL Annex V, the Government of Indonesia issued Presidential Decree No. 46/ 1986, which requires the provision of waste storage facilities in ports. The Ministry of Transportation released Decree of Minister of Transportation on Procurement of Waste Collection Facilities from Ships No. 215/1987, which obliges the ports of Belawan, Tanjung Priok, Tanjung Perak, and Makassar to set up reception facilities starting 1 April 1988. Setting up reception facilities in Indonesian ports, however, faces challenges. In Belawan port, the reception facilities still do not have a permit to operate, thus overall waste management cannot be performed optimally. In Tanjung Priok port, some vessels remain unserved as a result of late notification which, based on regulation, must be served at least 2 days before the arrival date. The port is sometimes full of  Indonesian Army ships, hampering waste transporter ships from quickly unloading wastes. The Makassar port has yet to establish port waste reception facilities. So far, its oil wastes are collected by private companies.

Singapore enacted the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea (Reception Facilities and Garbage Facilities) Regulations in 1991, requiring every port in the country to have adequate reception facilities that can accommodate wastes. Compared with other countries, Singapore has the biggest MARPOL Annex I reception facilities with advanced technologies, mainly established to tackle oil and oily wastewater. The facilities consist of two main treatments: oil sludge and slot treatment, both operating at high capacity. Singapore works with the Government of Indonesia and the Government of Malaysia in providing a port reception facilities booklet for the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. The booklet provides information about reception facilities within the area, such as prior notification for ships, communications, types of facility, and waste capacity.

Waste reception facilities are not only essential for ports on oceans and seas but also on rivers. For instance, the Mekong River passes through China, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Cambodia. As a trans-boundary river, the Mekong River has fundamental roles in transporting people and cargo to support international trade and tourism. In Viet Nam, about 73% of cargo is transported by water. Inevitably, high traffic on the Mekong River leads to ship-generated wastes, which consist of bilge water, domestic and operational wastes, and cargo-related wastes. Unfortunately, the river has no waste reception facilities or waste management guidelines. Thus, liquid and solid wastes generated from shipping activities are disposed into the river and then carried away by wind or waves to distant locations.


Waste Management: Preventing Discharge from Specific Sources


Discharges containing plastics, especially microplastics, come from various sources, even uncommon ones. Microplastics are everywhere, spreading through the entire ecosystem. They might be at the bottom of the sea (high-density polymers) and at its surface (low-density polymers), in rainwater, in food, in drinking water, in the air as well as in wastewater.

One of the most challenging and pressing issues is the footprint of microplastics across water bodies, which has led to the global marine plastic debris problem. Table 1 lists sources of microplastics in water bodies.

Table 1. Sources of Microplastics in Water Bodies


Potential Source

Run-off from land-based sources

Road surface run-off from the breakdown of road-marking paints and wear and tear of tyres

Fibres from textiles due to wear and tear and washing

Abrasion of objects such as synthetic soles of footwear and artificial turf

Agricultural run-off, particularly due to the use of sewage sludge or plastic materials for mulching

Wastewater effluent

Synthetic textile fibres from clothes washing

Cosmetic microbeads and disintegrated parts of larger consumer products flushed down toilets and sinks

Effluent from wastewater treatment plant

Combined sewer overflows

Overflow due to storm and heavy rainfall that bypass wastewater treatment

Industrial effluent

Leakage of pellets from plastic industries

Fragmentation and degradation of macroplastics

Fragmented and degraded macroplastics due to ultraviolet radiation and high temperatures

Atmospheric deposition

Dry and wet deposition, precipitation, and run-off

Production and distribution of drinking water

Erosion or degradation of plant components and distribution networks made from plastics

Microplastics in drinking water from bottles and caps

Source: WHO (2019).

Artificial turf, especially that used in sports, is a significant potential source of microplastic leakage to water bodies. Artificial turf is required to absorb impact and prevent injury as well as to maintain the feel of natural turf. It uses infill materials spread throughout the surface below the turf pile. In a typical third-generation turf composition, the infill materials are divided into stabilising infill and performance infill (Hann et al., 2018). Stabilising infill consists of a layer of sand to help retain the shape of turf, while performance infill is usually small polymeric particles (<5 mm in size) laid on top of stabilising infill. Performance infill mainly uses rubber crumbs from recycled tyres, although some organic materials, such as cork and coconut husks, are recommended. Contact sports, such as soccer, rugby, and American football, which cause frequent abrasion on infill materials could lead to microplastic leakage. The amount of microplastic leakage can be measured by the rate of loss of infill materials. The annual rate is 14% of total infill materials applied, which is equivalent to a loss of 18,000–72,000 tonnes (Hann et al., 2018).

Microplastics leakage into water bodies might come from landfill. A preliminary study by He et al. (2019) validated landfill as not only a source of plastic but a potential source of microplastics, especially from its leachate. The microplastics identified are mostly polyethylene and polypropylene, in fragments and flakes of 100–1000 µm. Microplastics in leachate can be carried out from leachate leakage or from effluent of leachate treatment systems. Microplastics from landfill may also be moving to the airstream through landfill ventilation and/or running off through soil surface to water bodies. The microplastics pathway means that landfill leachate is a challenge. Composting integrated into landfill sites might also be responsible for microplastics leakage as the compost generated from unsorted mixed waste contains microplastics in varied forms. Microplastics could leak into water bodies as agricultural run-off.

1. Optimised Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP)

WWTP is fundamental in removing microplastics from discharge in water bodies. Limited research has proven more than 90% removal of microplastics from effluent through WWTP, with the highest removals found after tertiary treatment such as filtration (WHO, 2019). The grease removal stage in preliminary and primary treatment is the most significant stage in microplastics removal (Sun et al., 2019). Sun et al. (2019) recommend advanced techniques such as Raman spectroscopy and thermo-analytic to remove tiny microplastics (<20 µm) remaining in effluent. However, the study was conducted mostly on WWTPs in high-income countries with comprehensive waste water treatment systems. Only 33% of low- and middle-income countries have sewer systems (WHO, 2019). Most low- and middle-income countries, especially in ASEAN, have limited technologies for WWTP application and often bypass some key stages of wastewater treatment, leading to non-optimal removal of microplastics.

WWTPs in Japan can remove up to 99.6% of microplastics, mainly from primary settlement tanks, with a 78.9% removal rate, followed by combined reactor and final settlement tank (97.8%), and rapid filtration equipment (58.9%) (Nakao et al., 2019). In seven WWTPs in Xiamen, a coastal city in China, about 79.3–97.8% (90.52% on average) of microplastics are successfully removed (Long et al., 2019). The removal rate in China is lower than in Canada, Scotland, and Finland, but higher than in Australia and Italy. The difference is primarily caused by different technological interventions and by characteristics of microplastics treated. In terms of technology, the Long et al. (2019) research highlighted the current secondary treatment in Xiamen, which is not specifically designed to eliminate microplastics, and compared it with other countries’ advanced tertiary treatments such as membrane bioreactor, post-filtration, and rapid sand filtration, which have removal rates of up to 99.99%. In terms of microplastics characteristics, the research revealed that some physical and chemical properties of microplastics affected their removal rate. These include the size of microplastics (the smaller the size, the higher the removal rate), the type of polymers (the higher the density of polymers, the higher the removal rate), and shape of microplastics (higher removal rate on fragments and granules than fibres and pellets).

The Republic of Korea (henceforth, Korea) has achieved a removal rate of more than 98% after tertiary treatment (Hidayaturrahman and Lee, 2019). Different WWTPs use different technologies for the tertiary treatment of different types of microplastics. The WWTP that mostly treated fibres (46.7%) and fragments (31.4%) applied ozone treatment, resulting in removal rate of 99.2%. The WWTP that mainly treated microbeads (70.4%) used membrane disc-filter, resulting in removal rate of 99.1%. The WWTP that mostly treated fragments (53.4%) applied rapid sand filtration, resulting in a removal rate of 98.9%.

Investment in advanced technologies is critically needed to prevent microplastics discharge. Identifying the appropriate technology based on the characteristics of microplastics is key to ensure the efficient removal of microplastics. Japan, China, and Korea have proven that an optimised WWTP can be achieved by utilising the appropriate technology and considering microplastics’ characteristics in the comprehensive treatment of wastewater. An optimised WWTP could be a model for an optimised leachate treatment system to prevent microplastics from leaching into landfill. Unlike Japan, China, and Korea, most ASEAN countries’ treatment plants have limited technological intervention and treatment coverage. As a result, the level of microplastics leakage remains high even after treatment in WWTPs, while microplastics from landfill leachate, tyre wear, artificial turf, or polymer-coated fertiliser are released without treatment.

2. Biodegradable polymer-coated controlled-release fertiliser

In agriculture, microplastics might be leaked from fertiliser application run-off. Polymer-coated controlled-release fertilisers, such as Osmocote®, Apex®, and Multicote®, are utilised for (1) easy-to-adjust fertilisation type and rate for different crops, (2) better fertiliser-use efficiency, (3) less nutrient pollution in wastewater, (4) no rinsing requirement after fertilisation, and many more (Landis and Dumroese, 2009). However, the thin polymer coating in fertilisers is transformed into trapped microplastics in the soil, which could potentially be leaked into water bodies. This side effect could be addressed by applying biodegradable polymer-coated controlled-release fertilisers (Majeed et al., 2015). Non-biodegradable synthetic polymer should be replaced with biodegradable natural or synthetic polymers derived from renewable natural resources. Biodegradation is induced by polymer blend in various combinations with natural polymers, especially lignin, starch, chitosan, alginate, cellulose, or their modified forms (Majeed et al., 2015).


    Hann, S. et al. (2018), Investigating options for reducing releases in the aquatic environment of microplastics emitted by (but not intentionally added in) products. (accessed 12 February 2020).

    He, P., L. Chen, L. Shao, H. Zhang, and F. Lü (2019), ‘Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Landfill: A Source of Microplastics? – Evidence of Microplastics in Landfill Leachate’, Water Research, 159, pp.38–45.

    Hidayaturrahman, H. and T.-G. Lee (2019), ‘A Study on Characteristics of Microplastic in Wastewater of South Korea: Identification, Quantification, and Fate of Microplastics During Treatment Process’, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 146, pp.696–702.

    Landis, T.D. and R.K. Dumroese (2009), ‘Using Polymer-coated Controlled-release Fertilizers in the Nursery and After Outplanting’, Forest Nursery Notes, pp.5–12.

    Long, Z. et al. (2019), ‘Microplastic Abundance, Characteristics, and Removal in Wastewater Treatment Plants in a Coastal City of China’, Water Research, 155, pp.255–65.

    Majeed, Z., N.K. Ramli, N. Mansor, and Z. Man (2015), ‘A Comprehensive Review on Biodegradable Polymers and their Blends Used in Controlled-release Fertilizer Processes’, Reviews in Chemical Engineering, 31, pp.69–95.

    Nakao, S., A. Ozaki, and K. Masumoto (2019), Fate of Microplastics in a Japanese Wastewater Treatment Plant and Optimization of Microplastics Treatment. (accessed 10 January 2020).

    Sun, J., X. Dai, Q. Wang, M.C.M. van Loosdrecht, and B.-J. Ni (2019), ‘Microplastics in Wastewater Treatment Plants: Detection, Occurrence and Removal’, Water Research, 152(1), pp.21–37.

    World Health Organization (2019), Microplastics in Drinking-Water. Geneva: WHO.

Waste Management: Preventing Littering


Effects of marine litter on marine life have significantly increased. In 2015, 557 species were reported to be affected by the excessive amount of marine litter. The effects include entanglement, smothering, and ingestion of plastic (Kuhn, Renolledo, and Franeker, 2015). Research on anti-littering behaviour indicates that marine littering is a cultural matter driven by micro or individual factors and macro or social factors. Micro factors are closely related to individual behaviour associated with awareness, perception, attitude, and concern; macro factors are related to policies and legislation influence. At the micro level, many people lack awareness of the environmental impacts of marine littering. Some people regard marine debris as an insignificant environmental and economic problem; some believe that the oceans can absorb any amount of marine debris. At the macro level, the social authorities are important to prevent marine litter because they are responsible for planning, monitoring, evaluating, and implementing corrective actions. Micro and macro factors intertwine. Encouraging anti-littering behaviour at the micro level can eventually influence behavioural changes at the macro level. Social and policy changes can greatly influence perceptions at the micro level (Beehary et al., 2017).

Some mechanisms can help change individual behaviour from the micro to the macro levels:

Awareness-raising programmes

Following Indonesia’s National Action Plan for Marine Debris Management 2018–2025, the government of Denpasar, Bali, in collaboration with the Technical Implementation Unit of the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries held underwater clean-up activities, which started by declaring an end to littering of oceans. Held in Semawang Beach on Earth Day 2017, the goal of the activities was to raise social awareness on the importance of a clean and healthy marine environment. The activities resulted in the collection of 260 kilogrammes of marine wastes.

The Government of Singapore believes that better public cleansing is not enough if people are not responsible. A National Environment Agency of Singapore report cited several educational campaigns to encourage people’s participation in cleansing efforts, starting with Keep Singapore Clean, introduced in 1968 to prevent littering in streets, drains, and other public areas. The effort was followed by a relentless stream of documentaries, short films, posters, banners, and pamphlets about the importance of not littering. The campaign’s positive impacts were evident in 1988, when the country became cleaner and more people became aware of the negative impacts of littering. Singapore employs micro- and macro-level mechanisms against littering in an aggressive campaign through Keep Singapore Clean. 

Japan is famous for its cleanliness. However, until the early 1960s, littering was common. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government launched a campaign in 1964 to prevent littering before the Tokyo Olympics, raising public awareness by encouraging citizens to show foreigners visiting the city a clean version of Tokyo (Asahi Shimbun, 2018)

Penalties for littering

South Tangerang in Indonesia took a bold step in 2013 by enacting Regulation No. 3/2014 on Waste Management. It emphasises that wastes must be utilised, managed, and disposed of properly. It prohibits littering on roads and in green open spaces, rivers, drainage systems, and public facilities. Every citizen is required to dispose of wastes in TPS-3Rs (transfer points with recycling activity for municipal solid waste) or TPSs (transfer points for municipal solid waste). Violation of the regulation could lead to penalties.

The city of Manila in the Philippines started implementing Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Regulation No. 96-009 or the Anti-Littering Law on 16 September 2010. The regulation prohibits littering; illegal dumping; illegal garbage disposal; improper and untimely piling up of garbage outside buildings; and spilling, scattering, and littering of wastes by public utility vehicles. Fines or rendering of community services are imposed for violations.

Based on a sociological study of littering, Singapore has the most stringent law focusing on violators. The Corrective Work Order, which came into force on 1 November 1992 as an amendment to the anti-littering law, requires violators to clean public areas such as parks or beaches for up to 12 hours instead of paying fines. The aim is to show offenders the impact of their actions and the challenges facing cleaners.

Buy-back programme

The buy-back programme is designed to exchange delivered recyclable wastes with money. The programme has been implemented in some ASEAN+3 countries.

In Indonesia, the buy-back programme is popularly known as Bank Sampah or waste bank. Bank Sampah in Malang city is handled by the local government and designed to show that waste is a source of money, not problems. Locals can earn by providing clean or washed recyclable wastes. The programme, however, deals only with high-value recyclable wastes that can be sold to buy-back centres.

In case of low-value waste, the government, for instance, can enforce extended producer responsibility, which requires producers to bear the cost of recycling or to achieve a set recycling rate (OECD, 2014). Some non-governmental organisations raise funds from industries or individuals to support collection of plastic waste by informal workers (Ahsan et al., 2012). 

Installing or removing waste bins

Singapore has exerted massive efforts to transform itself from being a litter-messy country into one of the cleanest in the world. The government provides adequate garbage bins (every 5–25 metres) throughout the country. The bins are emptied at least once a day to avoid overflowing garbage (Straughan et al., 2011).

The opposite strategy was implemented in Japan in 1964, when the Tokyo metropolitan government removed half a million public waste bins from the streets before the Tokyo Olympics. At that time, waste bins could no longer accommodate the huge amount of wastes, exacerbated by wind blowing wastes out of the bins. Waste collection was infrequent. The government urged people to dispose of their wastes in their own waste bins and putting them out before 8:00 a.m. Waste bins are still found today in railway stations or in front of convenience stores, managed not by local governments but by railway companies or convenience stores (Asahi Shimbun, 2018).

Although different in their approaches, Singapore and Japan demonstrated proper waste collection.

Proper waste collection

In many developing countries, rural areas are more exposed to environmental impacts, including those caused by improper waste collection. Several factors cause this severe condition:  low population density, poor socio-economic conditions, geographical segregation, dispersed waste collection points, low collection frequency, and poor accessibility to landfills and recycling and waste treatment facilities. These lead to open burning and river dumping practices (Mihai and Grozavu, 2019).

Waste collection services in Japan started in urban areas because mismanaged waste caused sanitation issues, such as the spread of cholera and typhoid. To prevent and minimise these diseases, the government promoted urban waste collection services (Ministry of Environment of Japan, 2014).   


Recycling: Design for Recycling


A new trend in the global effort to tackle marine plastic debris is design for recycling, which is designing a recyclable product using recycled materials instead of virgin materials (Maris et al., 2014).

Japan leads the design-for-recycling initiative across ASEAN+3 countries. In 1992, the Council for PET Bottle Recycling in Japan issued a guideline on designing a recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle. Revised several times, the guideline contains basic requirements for different components in the manufacture of PET bottles. These requirements make recycling easier, for example by using materials with less than 1.0 specific gravity to make labels and caps to speed up sorting (Table 1).

Table 1. Basic Requirements for PET Bottles


Basic Requirements



PET only for body*

  • Whether through blending, multilayering, etc., no materials other than PET should be used
  • Ensure safety and hygiene and no impact on the recycling process

No colour for body*

Exclude white crystallised neck finishes

Easily compressible structure**


No base cup*


  • Handle made of colourless PET or PE/PP with less than 1.0 specific gravity*
  • PE/PP handle with less than 1.0 specific gravity is recommended to be replaced with colourless PET**


No direct printing*

Exclude small print of best before date, production plant and lot, and other codes


  • No PVC*
  • Material and its thickness should enable separation by specific gravity, pneumatic, and washing processes during recycling*
  • No ink is transferred to bottles*
  • No aluminium foil laminated labels*
  • No aluminium-metallised labels**
  • Shrink sleeves with perforations**
  • For labels glued onto bottles, such as roll-on, sheet, and tacky labels, adhesive usage and the area covered with the adhesive should be minimised for easy peeling off by hand, and should leave no fragment or adhesive on the bottle surface when detached**



  • No aluminium*
  • No PVC*
  • Should mainly be made of PE/PP with less than 1.0 specific gravity*
  • Where glass beads and gaskets are used, instructions on how to detach them from the bottle after consumption should be included on the label*

Applicable to shells, inner seals, and liner materials

Others (price tags and other glued attachments)

Where adhesives, glue, or adhesive tapes are used to attach price tags, proof-of-purchase tapes, and promotional labels, etc., they are recommended to be attached to caps or labels. Where they are attached to the bottle bodies, they should be easily detachable by hand and should leave no fragment or adhesive on the bottle surface when detached**


  • PET = polyethylene terephthalate, PE = polyethylene, PP = polypropylene, PVC = polyvinyl chloride.
  • * Required items.
  • ** Recommended items.

Source: The Council for PET Bottle Recycling (2016).

In line with the guideline, the Act on the Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging (Act No. 112 of 16 June 1995) was enacted imposing responsibility upon manufacturers to rationalise the use of containers and packaging by using recyclable containers and packaging. They are further required to promote the sorted collection of waste containers and packaging that conform to the sorting standard. Manufacturers who apply the design for recycling are given incentives or technical support (Kojima, 2019).

Design for recycling also considers the use of recycled plastics instead of virgin plastics. Even if designed for recycling, plastics are not automatically recycled. The system should consider this. Even if plastics are recycled, it is essential to ensure that the process does not cause significant environmental impacts as those from the production of virgin plastics. Whether recycling is mechanical, chemical, or biological, or uses energy recovery, choosing technology with less environmental impact but reasonable cost is the biggest challenge.


    Government of Japan (1995), Act on the Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging (Act No. 112 of June 16, 1995). (accessed 28 November 2019).

    Kojima, M. (2019), Plastic Recycling: Policies and Good Practices in Asia. Jakarta: ERIA. (accessed 28 November 2019).

    Maris, E., D. Froelich, A. Aoussat, and E. Naffrechoux (2014), ‘From Recycling to Eco-design’, in E. Worrell and M.A. Reuter (eds.), Handbook of Recycling. Oxford: Elsevier, pp.421–27.

    The Council for PET Bottle Recycling (2016), Voluntary Design Guidelines for Designated PET Bottles. (accessed 28 November 2019).

Recycling: Eco-labelling


Certain companies label their products ‘eco-friendly’, ‘recyclable’, and ‘save energy’, which, however, has confused consumers. Some types of environmental performance labelling – including eco-labelling – have, therefore, been standardised using criteria to ensure credibility and impartiality.

As environmental performance labelling, eco-labelling is useful for governments in encouraging sound environmental practices and for businesses in identifying and establishing markets for their environmentally preferable products (GEN, 2004). Of the three types of environmental labelling under the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), eco-labelling is classified as Type I, which, in ISO 12024,  is awarded in the form of a mark or logo to products or services once a set of criteria is fulfilled (ISO, 2019). Type II (ISO 14021) provides a self-declared environmental claim while Type III (ISO 14025) provides such declarations based on the quantified data on life-cycle assessment.

In general, eco-labelling involves three steps (GEN, 2004). The first and critical step is selection and determination of product categories, which has a major impact on the eligibility of specific products and uses stringent criteria in each category. The second step is development and adoption of appropriate criteria, standards, or guidelines, which are strict requirements before applications are approved. The third step is certification and licensing, which is the output rewarded to applicants who have complied with the verification, testing, and monitoring processes.

Across ASEAN+3 countries, the government initiative on eco-labelling is classified into three categories: (1) with initiatives and maximum implementation, (2) with initiatives but limited implementation, and (3) without initiatives (AIT, 2016). The first category applies to Japan, China, Republic of Korea (henceforth, Korea), and Singapore; the second to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Viet Nam; and the third to Myanmar, Lao PDR, Cambodia, and Brunei Darussalam. Table 1 lists the complete status of government initiative on eco-labelling in ASEAN+3 countries.


Name of Eco-Label

Year of Adoption

Legal Framework

Number of Certified Product Categories


Logo of Eco-Label


Eco Mark


Several, including Act on Promoting Green Procurement


Japan Environment Association






Several, including


Procurement Law 2002


Ministry of Environmental Protection, China Certification Committee for Environmental Labelling, and China Environmental United Certification Center Co. Ltd.


Korea Eco-Label


Several, including Act on Promotion of Purchase of Green Products


Korea Environmental Industry and Technology Institute

Hasil gambar untuk Korean Eco-label"


Green Label


No specific laws


Singapore Environment Council


Thai Green Label


Cabinet Resolution of 2008


Thai Green Label Board

Hasil gambar untuk Thai Green Label"


SIRIM Eco Label


Green Directory


SIRIM QAS International Sdn. Bhd.

Eco Label


Ekolabel Indonesia


No specific laws


Ministry of Environment and Forestry

Hasil gambar untuk ekolabel indonesia"

The Philippines

Green Choice


Several, including Executive Order No. 301, since 2004


National Eco-labelling Programme of the Philippines Technical Board

Hasil gambar untuk Green Choice Philippines"

Viet Nam

Vietnam Green Label


No specific laws


Vietnam National Environment Administration of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment

Hasil gambar untuk vietnam green label"


Not available


No specific laws


No authority



Not available


No specific laws


No authority



Not available


No specific laws


No authority


Brunei Darussalam

Not available


No specific laws


No authority


Sources: UNEP (2014), AIT (2016).

The eco-labelling scheme in some ASEAN+3 countries has been implemented by enabling several standards of compliance, especially for recycled plastics and biodegradable and compostable plastics. The most relevant standard in each country is briefly explained below. The complete set of standards is available in the Industrial Standards for Recycled Products section.

Japan eco-labels plastic products using several standards, such as JIS (Japan Industrial Standard) K 6999: 2004 (Plastics – Identification and display of plastic products). The standard stipulates the unified display of plastic products by harmonising labels for different plastic products for collection or disposal of plastic waste ( Eco-labelling is generally promoted through the Eco Mark programme, which awards the Eco Mark label to products with less environmental impact, while educating consumers on how to choose products wisely.

China is implementing eco-labelling through the GB (Guo Biao) Standard of HJ/T 231-2006 (Technical requirement for environmental labelling products – Products made from recycled plastics). China sets requirements for the production of various products from waste plastic as the main raw material, including the restriction on using the products for food packaging (stated in the label) and the provision that at least 80% of recycled content should be used (China National Standards Service Center).

In Indonesia, eco-labelling is implemented through the SNI (Indonesian National Standard) 7188.7:2016 (Eco-labelling criteria – Part 7: Category for plastic and bioplastic shopping bags that easily decompose). The eco-labelling criteria are applicable to plastic and bioplastic bags for retail, with or without printing, which are mainly produced through a blow-film extrusion process. The criteria are designed to support the eco-label accreditation and certification system.

The Philippines implements PNS (Philippine National Standard) 2102:2013 (Specifications for compostable plastics), which specifies procedures and requirements for identification and labelling of plastics and plastic products that are suitable for recovery through aerobic composting. The standard addresses biodegradation, disintegration during composting, negative effects on the composting process and facility, and negative effects on the quality of the resulting compost, including the presence of high levels of regulated metals and other harmful components.

In Malaysia, SIRIM (Standard and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia) Berhad has developed SIRIM ECO 001:2018 and SIRIM ECO 018:2017. SIRIM ECO 001:2018 (Eco-labelling criteria – Biodegradable and compostable plastic and bioplastic), which is the revised version of SIRIM ECO 001:2016, which included only biodegradable and compostable products and excluded photodegradable and oxo-degradable materials (MESTECC, 2018). The revised version contains requirements for biodegradable or compostable plastic intermediate, material, and finished products intended for various domestic and commercial applications to be segregated and disposed of in a controlled facility. SIRIM ECO 018:2017 (Eco-labelling criteria – Recycled plastic products) establishes requirements for the environmental labelling of recycled plastic products for various applications, excluding direct food-contact application (SIRIM Berhad).


Recycling: Industrial Standards for Recycled Products


Consumers are often hesitant to purchase recycled products, mainly because they might be of poor quality. To make recycled products more marketable, common standards are critically needed to ensure that the industry produces only quality products and to persuade consumers to buy them. Common standards can reduce transaction costs because they guarantee the quality of recycled products (Kojima and Atienza, 2010).  

Common standards can be developed by national governments or industry associations and can be either mandatory or voluntary. Some countries enhance their export–import standards through, for example, measures such as bans and prior consent to prevent unmanaged environmental impacts of recycling. Some ASEAN+3 countries have enacted several national industrial standards for recycled products.

1. Japan

Since 2000, Japan has accelerated standardisation to promote recycling through the Japan Industrial Standard (Kojima and Atienza, 2010). In 2017, Japan had 10,622 standards, 5,855 of which corresponded with international standards (JISC, 2017). As of 31 March 2019, Japan had 10,773 standards. Table 1 lists some standards related to promotion of plastic recycling.

Table 1. Industrial Standards for Promoting Plastic Recycling in Japan

JIS Number

Name of Standard


JIS K 6899: 2000

Plastics – Symbols and abbreviations

Labels indicating characteristics of basic polymers and their properties, fillers and reinforcements, plasticisers, and flame retardants

JIS K 6999: 2004

Plastics – Identification and display of plastic products

Labelling system for identification when determining the handling of plastic products

JIS Z 0130: 2015

Environmental considerations for packaging

Packaging management through basic requirements, optimisation of packaging systems, reuse, material recycling, energy recovery, and organic recycling

JIS Z 0150: 2018

Packaging – Symbols for handling of packaged cargo

Graphical symbols for handling the storage and distribution of packaged cargo

JIS Z 0609: 2017

Plastic flat pallets using recycled containers and packaging

Recycled containers and packaging for plastic flat pallets

JIS Z 0666: 2017

Application of radio frequency identification (RFID) to the supply chain – product packaging

RFID specifications for supply chain of product packaging

JIS Z 1707: 2019

General rules for plastic film for food packaging

General rules for single-layer and multi-layer plastic films used in food packaging

JIS Z 7001: 2007

Plastics – Environmental aspect – General introduction guidelines for standards

General guidance of environmental aspects in plastic product standards

JIS Z 7121: 2007

Life cycle inventory survey method, including the recycling stage of plastic

Adoption of life-cycle assessment in the recycling stage of plastic


2. China

China delivers many national standards to enhance plastic recycling. They are called GB (Guo Biao) Standards. Thirty-two prefix code classifications differentiate GB Standards from one industrial sector to another. Amongst those classifications, one is for the environmental protection sector, namely HJ, HJ/T, HJT, under the Ministry of Ecology and Environment of China (China National Standards Service Center). The GB Standards are generally classified into two stages: mandatory (prefix code without T) and recommended (prefix code with T). Table 2 lists several GB Standards.

Table 2. Industrial Standards for Promoting Plastic Recycling in China

GB Standards Number

Name of Standard


HJ 209-2017

Technical requirement for environmental labelling of products – Plastic packaging products

Environmental labelling guideline for plastic packaging products

HJ 2540-2015

Technical requirement for environmental labelling of products – Wood plastic composites products

Environmental labelling guideline for wood plastic composites products

HJ 421-2008

Standard of packaging bags, containers, and warning symbols specific to medical waste

Requirements for special packaging bags, containers, and warning signs for medical waste

HJ/T 226-2005

Technical requirement for environmental labelling of products – Plastic pipes for construction

Environmental labelling guideline for plastic pipes for construction

HJ/T 231-2006

Technical requirement for environmental labelling of products – Products made from recycled plastics

Environmental labelling guideline for products made from recycled plastics

HJ/T 233-2006

Technical requirement for environmental labelling of products – Foamed plastics

Environmental labelling guideline for foamed plastics

HJ/T 237-2006

Technical requirement for environmental labelling of products – Plastic doors and windows

Environmental labelling guideline for plastic doors and windows

HJ/T 364-2007

Technical specifications for pollution control during collection and recycling of waste plastics

Pollution control supervision and management during storage, transportation, pre-treatment, and recycling of waste plastics.

Source: China National Standards Service Center.

3. Indonesia

Indonesia promotes plastic recycling through standards on environmental management, specifically on eco-labelling criteria. One standard is SNI (Indonesian National Standard) under the National Standardization Body (BSN). Table 3 lists the specific industrial standards on eco-labelling criteria.

Table 3. Industrial Standards for Promoting Plastic Recycling in Indonesia

SNI Number

Name of Standard


SNI 19-4377-1996

Polyethylene plastic for packaging

Guidance to production of polyethylene plastic for packaging

SNI 7188.7:2016

Eco-labelling criteria – Part 7: Category for plastic and bioplastic shopping bags that easily decompose

Guidance to production of recyclable plastic products, including the attachment of eco-label logo, certification number, and statement on their easy-to-decompose characteristic

SNI 7322:2008

Melamine products – Tableware

Guidance to production of melamine products such as tableware

SNI 7323:2008

Plastic – Food and beverage containers – Polystyrene foam

Guidance to production of food and beverage containers including polystyrene foam

SNI 8424:2017

Recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin

Guidance to production of Recycled PET resin

SNI ISO 14021:2017

Environmental labels and declarations – Self declared environmental claim (type II environmental labelling)

Declaration of the implementation of Type II (self-declared environmental claim) of the environmental labelling

Source: Center for Environmental and Forestry Standardization (2017), BSN.

4. The Philippines

To promote plastic recycling, the Philippines has established the Philippine National Standard (PNS) through the Bureau of Philippine Standards (BPS). Table 4 lists the relevant standards, mostly adopted from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Table 4. Industrial Standards for Promoting Plastic Recycling in the Philippines

PNS Number

Name of Standard


PNS 2102:2013

Specifications for compostable plastics

Identification and labelling of plastics and plastic products suitable for recovery through aerobic composting

PNS ISO 14006:2011

Environmental management systems – Guidelines for incorporating eco-design

Management of eco-design as part of the environmental management system

PNS ISO TR 14062:2011

Environmental management – Integrating environmental aspects into product design and development

Concepts and current practices relating to the integration of environmental aspects into product design and development

PNS ISO 14026:2018

Environmental labels and declarations – Principles, requirements, and guidelines for communication of footprint information

Footprint communications for products, addressing areas of concern relating to the environment

PNS ISO TS 14027:2018

Environmental labels and declarations – Development of product category rules

Product category rules within a type III environmental declaration or footprint communication programme based on life cycle assessment

Source: BPS.

5. Malaysia

To promote plastic recycling, Malaysia applies the Malaysian Standards (MS) developed by the Department of Standards Malaysia under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. The Department of Standards Malaysia has appointed the Standard and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM Berhad) as the sole national agency coordinating standards development activities. As many as 5,165 standards had been formulated as of 8 October 2019 (Department of Standards Malaysia, 2019). About 60% are aligned with international standards. Related to plastics and plastic products, 390 standards have been offered. SIRIM Berhad has also issued SIRIM ecolabelling criteria documents. Table 5 lists standards related to plastic recycling.

Table 5. Industrial Standards for Promoting Plastic Recycling in Malaysia


Name of Standard


MS 1904:2006

Specification for polyethylene plastics moulding and extrusion

materials from recycled post-consumer (HDPE) sources

Specification for producing certain plastics products

MS ISO 14024:2000

Environmental labels and declarations – Type I environmental labelling – Principles and procedures

Declaration of the implementation of Type I of environmental labelling

MS ISO 15270:2008

Plastics – Guidelines for the recovery and recycling of plastics waste

Standards and specifications covering plastics waste recovery, including different options of recovery and quality requirements in all steps of recovery

SIRIM ECO 001:2018

Eco-labelling criteria – Biodegradable and compostable plastic and bioplastic

Eco-labelling criteria for biodegradable and compostable plastic and bioplastic (revision)

SIRIM ECO 009:2019

Eco-labelling criteria – Biodegradable and compostable biomass products

Eco-labelling criteria for biodegradable and compostable biomass products (revision)

SIRIM ECO 018:2017

Eco-labelling criteria – Recycled plastic products

Eco-labelling criteria for recycled plastic products

Sources: Malaysian Standards Online, Mohamed (2010), SIRIM Berhad.


Recycling: Eco-Industrial Park


The eco-industrial park concept relates to industrial ecology, a field developed at the beginning of the 1990s by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The concept recognises that industrial collaboration yields better economic, environmental, and social performance than industries acting independently (Veiga et al., 2004). The concept aims to create in a common property a community of manufacturing and service businesses that can collaborate on managing environmental issues in a resource-efficient way. Japan, China, and Singapore have been at the forefront of developing the eco-industrial park concept, inspiring other ASEAN countries.

1. Kitakyushu Eco-Town

Kitakyushu’s industries led modernisation in Japan (Sato, 2009). In 1997, Kitakyushu launched an initiative to transition from an industrial city with controlled pollution to a green city with a strong focus on the promotion of environmental industry and sustainability and which considers environmental, healthcare, and economic approaches (Shiroyama and Kajiki, 2016). Kitakyushu’s efforts were inspired by the national initiative of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (now the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry). On 10 July 1997, the Kitakyushu Eco-Town project was approved together with similar projects in Gifu Prefecture, Iida City, and Kawasaki Municipality, and followed by projects in 22 areas across Japan (Fujita, 2008). The projects are a direct result of the Act on the Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging (Act No. 112 of 16 June 1995), the Act on Recycling of Specified Home Appliances (Act No. 97 of 5 June 1998), and subsequent regulations.

The Kitakyushu Eco-Town programmes deal with issues using a holistic approach that integrates academic research, technology-based experimental study, and commercialisation (Fujita, 2008; Sato, 2009). To support commercialisation, Kitakyushu utilises collaborations amongst the General Environment Complex, the Habiki Recycling Area, the Habikinada East Area, and other areas. The government aims to circularly trade waste that can be recycled as raw materials. Figure 1 illustrates the complete collaboration. For instance, in the General Environment Complex, the Nishinihon Consumer Electronics Recycle Co., Ltd. recycles home appliances.  Although the company can purchase raw materials from the office equipment and edible oil recycling industries, it focuses on disassembling and sorting discarded electric household appliances such as televisions, freezers, air conditioners, and washing machines, as  required by the Act on Recycling of Specified Home Appliances (Act No. 97 of 5 June 1998). The sorted parts are then broken down into iron, aluminium, copper, plastic, and other materials, which are supplied to enterprises that recycle cans, sludge, used paper, containers, and packaging materials. Through such collaboration, companies gain certainty about the supply of raw materials and the demand for their recycled products.

Figure 1. Collaboration Amongst Industries in Kitakyushu Eco-Town

Source: Government of Kitakyushu (2018).

The Kitakyushu Eco-Town programmes are primarily motivated by town planning and community development and engagement factors (Van Berkel et al., 2009). As a result, the programmes involve the local government and local community to strengthen their sense of belonging to the town, which raises environmental awareness. The programmes are highly driven by environmental remediation factors (Van Berkel et al., 2009). Realising the existence of environmental black spots, the local government has been encouraged to take responsibility for improving the quality of life of the local community. Such an advanced level of adoption has led the Kitakyushu Eco-Town to be recognised worldwide (Fujita, 2008).

To disperse such good practice locally and globally, the Kitakyushu Eco-Town Center and the Next Generation Energy Park were developed, arising from technology-based experimental studies. The Kitakyushu Eco-Town Center offers inspection tours and visits to demonstrate recycling practices. At the Next Generation Energy Park, visitors can observe various next-generation energy sources, inter-company cooperation, and innovative technology research (Government of Kitakyushu, 2018). These efforts are supported by the government in collaboration with academia and business. Academia provides an atmosphere conducive to basic research while business aids practical research and incubation of local enterprises.

Kawasaki Eco-Town has a similar effort: it plans to create a model town where industry and environment coexist in harmony. The government enforces four basic policies: require companies to become eco-friendly, require companies to collaborate to become eco-friendly on-site, conduct research on the sustainable development of coastal areas, and contribute to international communication (Government of Kawasaki, 2020). The main recycling facilities at the Kawasaki Eco-Town convert waste plastics into products such as blast furnaces, concrete setting frames, ammonia, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. Through collaboration, recycling enterprises receive waste plastics in amounts that keep their business alive and profitable. Tokyo emulated such efforts through the Super Eco-Town project, proposed in 2001, which aims for urban revitalisation, especially in seaside areas of the prefecture. To support this project, the government has secured the necessary government-owned land and allocated it to the development of facilities related to waste treatment and recycling (Government of Tokyo, 2019). The government is responsible for deciding the type of facilities for the project and which companies will operate them. The government is promoting the project to raise awareness amongst companies. Qualified and selected companies will acquire government land and raise funds and ensure business feasibility (Government of Tokyo, 2019).

2. China’s Eco-Industrial Park

China has also been at the forefront of utilising eco-industrial parks, which are classified into (1) sector-integrated groups (multisector industrial parks), (2) venous groups (resource-recovery or secondary-material industrial parks), and (3) sector-specific groups (primarily industrial parks with one main sector or correlated sectors) (Huang et al., 2019).  By the end of 2015, 126 national eco-industrial parks demonstration plans were being endorsed, consisting of 109 sector-integrated parks, 14 sector-specific parks, and 3 venous parks (Huang et al., 2019).

The eco-industrial parks are operated under the national standard of HJ 274-2015 (Standard for National Demonstration Eco-Industrial Parks), which  has been revised several times since it was issued in 2006. The standard includes 32 evaluation indicators for national eco-industrial parks grouped into economic development, industrial symbiosis, resource conservation, environmental protection, and information disclosure. The latest version of HJ 274-2015 has been improved greatly by applying ‘three-in-one’ (three classifications of eco-industrial parks) standard, supplementing industrial symbiosis criteria, involving environmental risk control indicators, covering more environmental indicators, and providing optional indicators (Huang et al., 2019).

Aside from administrating eco-industrial parks through the Ministry of Environmental Protection (now the Ministry of Ecology and Environment), China is transforming industrial park recycling entities into those similar to eco-industrial parks and agriculture-based parks. Led by the National Development and Reform Commission, the initiative’s main purpose is to transform industrial parks that consume much resources and energy into high-resource utilisation and low-pollution entities (Wen et al., 2018). The initiative was one of the 10 major nationwide demonstration programmes of circular economy proposed in the ‘10-100-1000’ action plan of the 12th Five-Year Plan for Circular Economy Development issued by the State Council in 2012 (Wen et al., 2018). By 2017, 129 industrial parks had been approved for transformation (Wen et al., 2018). The initiative was highlighted as the key to enhancing circular development in China. Still needed, however, are financial incentives for environmentally sound products as well as related research and technological support, and transition to a model led by both government and the market to attract more investments (Wen et al., 2018).

To support the eco-industrial park concept, China’s local governments facilitate symbiosis amongst industries by subsidising and operationalising shared facilities for managing the disposal of recyclables or other wastes (Thieriot and Sawyer, 2015). In Yinchuan, shared compactors and cutting machines are available at recyclable waste markets. Certain areas have solar-powered waste compactors – waste bins that send a signal whenever they are full to alert collectors to pick up the waste (Hanly, 2017). Beijing has a weighing scale for joint use in shops that collect electronic and motor vehicle components. In Suzhou, most enterprises prefer to outsource their waste management to a single company that charges them a disposal fee (Mo et al., 2009). Since most enterprises just produce consumer products, collecting and recycling industries are still lacking. To fill the gap, the government of Tianjin has aggressively increased the number of collecting and recycling enterprises. A case study of the Tianjin Economic-technological Development Area (TEDA) shows that industrial symbiosis is encouraged through internet-based information sharing by the local government through TEDA (Geng et al., 2007). The TEDA website allows enterprises to confidentially upload their waste statistics to the public database. Waste collection and recycling are then facilitated through the website for a reasonable fee. An example of such symbiosis in TEDA is that between a landscape company and Novozymes, a Danish biotechnology company. The landscape company utilises biological sludge from Novozymes and organic waste from local industries and communities to produce organic fertilizer for landscaping (Geng et al., 2007).

The government attracts collecting and recycling industries by investing in a central sorting and recycling system, thus adding value and minimising transportation costs. The system serves as a transfer station to sort and recycle waste such as glass, plastic, and paper. The system includes transforming waste into a new resource, marketing products from recycled waste, and storing large amounts of valuable but unreclaimable waste such as waste batteries (Geng et al., 2007). The government encourages industries to treat their wastewater or be charged RMB1/tonne for sewage disposal. The government has invested in a centralised wastewater treatment plant to maintain the water circularity of the eco-industrial park (Yu et al., 2014). Utilising reverse osmosis and continuous micro-filtration technologies, a new water source plant was built to supply high-purity recycled water. Figure 2 illustrates the overall TEDA water circularity.

Figure 2. TEDA Water Circularity

Source: Yu et al. (2014).

3. Sarimbun Recycling Park

The Sarimbun Recycling Park (formerly part of the Lim Chu Kang dumping ground), leased by 13 recycling companies, contributes 25% of total waste recycled in Singapore (NEA, 2020). Faced with scarce land, the Government of Singapore is planning to promote recycling collaboration under one roof through a multi-storey recycling facility in Sarimbun Recycling Park. Before construction, however, soil stability and strength and other feasibility indicators  should first be assessed. Such collaboration would reduce transportation costs and incorporate recycling and other common facilities. According to the senior executive for marketing of Cimelia Resource Recovery, such collaboration can eliminate logistics cost, which is 20% of total costs (Jianyue, 2014). The business development manager of Eveready Manufacturing supports the idea of consolidated facilities, including electricity and water supply (Chua, 2014).

4. ‘Export’ of Resource-Recycling City

Such cooperation continues to address the same challenge in other ASEAN+3 countries. For instance, Japan ‘exports’ its experiences in developing resource-recycling cities through similar cooperation with ASEAN+3 countries. Japan cooperates with Surabaya City (Indonesia), Phnom Penh City (Cambodia), Hai Phong City (Viet Nam), and Rayong Province (Thailand) (Umemoto, 2012).

In Surabaya, cooperation has reduced household waste by 30% by involving more than 20,000 households in organic waste composting (Umemoto, 2012). Some initiatives are also undertaken through Japan International Cooperation Agency projects on effluent treatment systems, drinking water supply systems, waste treatment, and cogeneration and energy saving. In Phnom Penh, on-site technological guidance has led to the rapid improvement of water supply. Cooperation helps develop new water-based business by introducing the water block system in Hai Phong. Thailand intends to copy the success of Kitakyushu Eco-Town by developing an eco-industrial town that harmonises industries and communities in Rayong, which has many industrial factories along the eastern seaboard (Bangkok Post, 2013).

5. Gap in ASEAN Countries

Developing eco-industrial parks is important in creating a circular economy, which contributes to reducing leakage of plastic wastes into the ocean. Although some ASEAN countries have tried to copy Japan’s success in eco-town projects, a gap still exists between current policies, especially in supporting a circular economy through recycling industries. Industries have the responsibility for the end-of-life of their product but still lack policies for expanding and upgrading recycling, thus resulting in low participation rates. Emerging policies should bridge the gap between extended producer responsibility (EPR) and the recycling industry’s capacity. Shared facilities in eco-industrial parks in Japan and China have reduced cost and space used. Facilitating the development of eco-industrial parks will have a positive effect on the implementation of EPR policies and will further help countries achieve a circular economy.


Recycling: Extended Producer Responsibility


Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is the responsibility of producers who design and market products for end-of-life treatment (Akenji et al., 2011). EPR has been applied to different products, notably packaging materials, vehicles, and electrical and electronic equipment. Policymakers apply EPR using four instruments: (1) product take-back requirements; (2) economic and market-based instruments such as deposit–refund schemes, advanced disposal fee, material taxes, and upstream combination tax or subsidy that incentivises producers to comply with EPR; (3) regulations and performance standards such as minimum recycled content; and (4) accompanying information-based instruments such as raising public awareness (OECD, 2014).

In Japan, the Act on the Promotion of Sorted Collection and Recycling of Containers and Packaging (Act No. 112 of 16 June 1995) effectively involves manufacturers to voluntarily conform to the guideline on design for recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. Green PET bottles, commonly used for green-tea packaging, have been replaced with transparent ones. Manufacturers have also started producing thinner bottles, thus reducing resin in production and consequently minimising bottle weight (Hosoda, 2004). EPR has been set up for other plastic containers and packaging. Municipalities are responsible for properly sorting and packaging waste containers before these are sent to recyclers. Manufacturers are financially responsible for recycling their products. They may cooperate with producer responsibility organisations (PROs) such as the Japan Containers and Packaging Recycling Association, which outsources the recycling operations to registered recyclers selected through annual tenders under criteria set by the PRO (Yamakawa, 2016). A recycling fee proportional to the quantity of waste multiplied by full recycling cost of the product category is paid to PROs. However, due to the high cost, certain municipalities bypass PROs and contract directly with independent recyclers, undermining the system (Kurita, 2011). The fee paid by municipalities is much higher than the fee paid by manufacturers. For example, in 2003, municipalities paid about ¥423.5 billion (US$3.898 billion, as of 10 December 2019) for waste collection, sorting, and storing, which was 10 times the outlay of manufacturers (¥40 billion or US$0.368 billion, as of 10 December 2019) (Yamakawa, 2016). A challenge for Japan is determining the positive and negative environmental impact as a result of shifting from heavy materials, such as glass bottles and steel cans, to light materials, such as PET bottles, aluminium cans, and paper cartons, which occurred as a result of the law (Yamakawa, 2016).

Similarly, the Republic of Korea (henceforth, Korea) has established EPR by imposing the deposit–refund scheme and advanced deposit fee (ADF). The deposit–refund scheme used to oblige producers and importers to deposit money into a special account and refund them based on the recovery rate (Lease, 2002). This scheme was terminated in 2003 and a new deposit–refund scheme was enforced under the Act on Resource Recirculation of Electrical and End of Life Vehicles (henceforth, the Eco-Assurance Act) and the Act on the Promotion of Saving and Recycling of Resources (henceforth, the Recycling Act) (Heo and Jung, 2014). The Eco-Assurance Act emphasises the responsibility of producers and importers to appropriately treat electrical and electronic equipment as well as vehicles after disposal. The Recycling Act facilitates the new scheme by combining the deposit–refund scheme and the take-back system. Article 15-2 enables producers and importers to include a certain amount (container deposit) in the product price to facilitate the recovery and reuse of containers, which are standardised based on certain specifications and marked as ‘container deposit refundable’ and ‘reusable’. The producers refund the deposit to the person who returns the containers. The producers or importers also reimburse the handling fee incurred by wholesalers or retailers for storing and transporting empty containers. The returned containers and refunding are managed in distribution support centres established by the producers. Producers of beverages have been utilising the scheme with the deposit of about 40% of the cost of manufacturing a new bottle (Heo and Jung, 2014). ADF is charged to producers and importers of hard-to-recycle products, including hazardous chemicals; anti-freeze solution; chewing gum; disposable diapers; cigarettes; and plastic products such as PVC pipes, toys, and kitchenware (OECD, 2014). Table 1 lists the ADF charged to certain products in Korea.

Table 1. Advanced Deposit Fees Charged to Certain Products in Korea


Type and/or Size

Deposit (₩)

Pesticides, hazardous chemicals

Plastic container

≤500 ml


>500 ml


Glass bottle

≤500 ml


>500 ml


Metal can

≤500 ml


>500 ml


Anti-freeze solution



Chewing gum


1.8% of price

Disposable diapers






Plastic products

Construction plastic


Other plastics


Note: ₩1=US$0.00086 as of 20 January 2020.

Source: Heo and Jung (2014).

In Korea, the challenge occurs when the recycling rate target of EPR products covers only 33% of the capacity of all recycling facilities available, which was 4.3 million tonnes/year (Heo and Jung, 2014). The supply of recyclable products is still unstable and less value-added. An online market platform was, therefore, developed to provide such information on nationwide supply and demand of recyclable products. The platform will facilitate networking amongst waste collectors, recyclers, and consumers. To enhance price competitiveness, Korea promotes competition between actors that tend to benefit from EPR schemes through PROs supported by governments. Six PROs are integrated into a single PRO called the Korea Package Recycling Association to reduce administrative costs. Through these efforts, Korea increases supply stability and value-added to EPR products.

Amongst ASEAN countries, Singapore has an ambitious initiative of targeting not later than 2025 the implementation of the EPR framework for managing packaging waste, including plastics. This initiative follows the Singapore Packaging Agreement amongst the government, industries, and non-governmental organisations. To support the initiative, Singapore, through the National Environment Agency, will introduce in 2020 the mandatory packaging reporting and 3R plans for packaging for producers of packaged products and supermarkets, legislated under the Resource Sustainability Act 2019 (Act No. 29 of 2019) (NEA, 2019).

Some challenges provide lessons from other ASEAN+3 countries. For example, the e-waste EPR scheme is facing a challenge in identifying producers. Most producers, especially in developing countries, are small unregistered manufacturers called free riders (Kojima et al., 2009). In Malaysia, over 60% of computers are assembled by small manufacturers. In Thailand, miscellaneous manufacturers produce 35% of assembled air conditioners. Asking small manufacturers to be responsible for their products’ end-of-life will be difficult. On the import of e-waste, anticipating smuggled and imitation products is a challenging issue. In Japan, recycling of orphan computers (those that have no responsible producers) from small unidentified manufacturers and smuggled and imitation products is financially shouldered by consumers (Kojima et al., 2009). The packaging and container recycling system in Japan exempts small-scale producers from such responsibility. If many unregistered small-scale traders import or if small industries produce or use packaging and containers, it may be difficult to implement the EPR system.


Recycling: Green Procurement


Green procurement is the purchase of products, services, and works that cause minimal environmental impacts. It can contribute to local, regional, national, and international sustainability and enhance cost-effective use, maintenance, and final disposal of products; lower the cost of water and energy; and help attain environmental targets, such as reduction of environmental impacts and promotion of sustainable production (European Union, 2016; APEC Committee on Trade and Investment, 2013).  

Life-cycle approach is fundamental in green procurement because it helps measuring environmental performance of a whole process, including production, transportation, procurement, and disposal. Governments and market/industry control the success of green procurement. Government is in charge of developing a sound policy framework, collecting commitment to greening purchasing from producers and politicians, setting environmental requirements, advertising standards, training, monitoring, and conveying the benefits of green procurement. Market/industry is responsible for environmental standards in the market, training, and certification of green procurement (APEC Committee on Trade and Investment, 2013).  

Japan was the first country in Asia-Pacific to implement green procurement to reduce environmental degradation. Japan’s Eco Mark Program, which came into force in 1989, was the first milestone for green procurement in the country (APRSCP, 2014). The programme was initiated by the Japan Environment Association, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment and other organisations. The programme operates in accordance with the principles and standards of the International Organization of Standardization (ISO). The Eco Mark Program covers a range of products, including recycled plastic such as household and industrial textiles, stationery and office supplies, plastic, furniture, and refillable and resource-saving containers.

Japan has promoted green purchasing in a number of ways, including launching the Action Plan for Greening Government Operations in 1995, establishing the Green Purchasing Network in 1996, and enacting the Act on Promotion of Procurement of Eco-Friendly Goods and Services by the State and Other Entities in 2000 (Nakahara, n.d.). The act obliges all government ministries and entities to implement green purchasing policies, release their own procurement policies, and report them to the Ministry of Environment. Efforts to carry out green procurement are decentralised to local governments, which are responsible for formulating annual green procurement policies and implementing them upon integration with national regulation. The law regulates categories for eco-friendly products that are mainly designed based on the Eco Mark Program (APRSCP, 2014). Various products from recycled plastic are covered by this regulation, such as stationery, office furniture, imaging equipment, computers, mobile telephones, home electronic appliances, uniforms and work clothes, and interior fixtures and bedding. Although the products listed in the regulation refer to Eco Mark, several Eco Mark products have a higher standard for plastic recycled material used. For instance, the recycled plastic material in ballpoint pens must be 70%, while the law requires only 40% (Japan Environmental Association, n.d.,b; Ministry of the Environment of Japan, 2019). Thus, Eco Mark is considered a leader in green procurement in Japan (Nakahara, n.d.)

In Thailand, public procurement contributes 20% of the national economy, which means that promoting a green procurement policy can encourage manufacturers to produce more green products. Thailand has taken several steps to foster green procurement. The Pollution Control Department is tasked by the minister of natural resources and environment to implement the green procurement policy. Unlike Japan, Thailand has no legal framework for green procurement. Yet, Thailand released two green public procurement (GPP) plans in 2008–2011 and in 2013–2016 (APRSCP, 2014). The first GPP plan aimed to promote green procurement in government, with central and local government agencies as target groups (Suksod, 2015; UNEP, 2017). The second GPP plan targeted a wider range of groups, including public organisations, universities, private sector, and the public. The second GPP plan also encouraged behavioural change so consumption could be more sustainable (Suksod, 2015). Although green procurement is voluntary, the two plans have specific goals that must be achieved (Table 1).

Table 1. Targets of the Green Public Procurement Plans

First Green Public Procurement Plan





Number of implementing authorities (national scale)

≥ 25%

≥ 50%

≥ 75%

≥ 100%

Spending on green products/services

≥ 25%

≥ 30%

≥ 40%

≥ 60%

Second Green Public Procurement Plan





Number of implementing authorities (local)

≥ 10%

≥ 15%

≥ 30%

≥ 50%

Number of implementing authorities (universities and public organisations)

≥ 50%

≥ 60%

≥ 70%

≥ 100%

Spending on green products/services

≥ 70%

≥ 75%

≥ 80%

≥ 90%

Source: UNEP (2017)

In 1994, the Ministry of Industry and the Thailand Environment Institute launched the Thai Green Label. It has since become a guideline for green public procurement products. It has 27 product categories, including recycled plastic. Two other labels, Green Cart and Green Leaf, regulate designated green procurement products and hotels, respectively.

The Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Environment enacted the Act on the Promotion of the Purchase of Eco-Products in 2005, making the country the second to regulate the purchase of eco-products. The act promotes the eco-product market by requiring green product procurement to minimise environmental pollution and support sustainable development. Under the law, the Ministry of Environment is responsible for formulating guidelines for environmentally friendly products, while government agencies are responsible for buying green products with the Korean Eco-label, Energy Saving Mark, or Good Recycled Mark. The labels cover a range of products, including recycled plastic products, furniture, household appliances, amongst others. The act has increased the amount of green purchasing products from US$255 million in 2004 to US$850 million in its first year of implementation. To further promote green procurement, the government provides information on the green products information platform and in the standard green procurement ordinance, shares and disseminates best practices, facilitates green procurement training, and grants fiscal incentives (UNEP, 2017).

Malaysia encourages the use of green products by prohibiting its civil servants from using single-use plastic products, aiming for zero single-use plastic nationwide by 2030. Plastic products, such as plastic wrap, and single-use plates, cups, bowls, straws, and cutlery, are targeted for reduction. People are requested to bring their own food containers and cutlery (Singh, 2019).


Recycling: Economic Incentives for Recycling Industries


Economic incentives are essential to the rapid growth of recycling industries. Incentives should steer economic activity in a direction that causes less environmental impact, encourage consumers to switch to cheaper eco-friendly products, and stimulate production of eco-friendly products through tax reduction (OECD, 2014). Depending on their needs and situation, some ASEAN+3 countries have adopted different approaches to offering economic incentives.

Indonesia aims to give recycling industries fiscal incentives, such as lowering the value-added tax (VAT) from 10% to 5% for recycling businesses. However, this scheme faces a challenge due to its indirect effect on profit. Since VAT will mainly be added to the selling price, recycling industries will have to depend on sales volume to gain higher profits. Demand for recycled products, however, is still low. The scheme is not expected to transform business-as-usual (Novastria, 2019). This kind of incentive should be integrated with other aspects such as ease of doing business, ease of obtaining loans, and business development services.

Indonesia has offered other economic incentives in various schemes as emphasised in Government Regulation No. 46/2017 on Environmental Economic Instruments. The most popular scheme is the green sukuk, which is conceptually similar to the green bond initiated by the World Bank in 2008 to raise funds to support projects related to climate change. However, the green sukuk was established by implementing sharia (Islamic law) financial concepts. Sukuk is the plural of sakk, which means legal instrument, deed, or cheque. It is Arabic for a guarantee certificate for sharia investment (Alsaeed, 2012).  In line with the World Bank’s global effort, the green sukuk aims to solve global warming through renewable energy, energy efficiency, green tourism, green buildings, sustainable agriculture, disaster risk reduction, sustainable transport, waste-to-energy and waste management, and sustainable management of natural resources. Government expenditure in these sectors can be monitored through a national budget tagging mechanism that emphasises performance and outcome (Haryanto, 2018). In ASEAN, Indonesia pioneered green bonds by releasing US$1.25 billion green sukuk in March 2018 (Anggraini, 2018). It is the world’s first sovereign green sukuk.

To support its recycling industries, China has conducted a similar but more advanced VAT initiative. China grants favourable VAT treatment to recycling industries through Circular No. 115 of State Administration of Taxation in Ministry of Finance in 2011. Since 01 August 2011, VAT exemption has been applied to any service related to waste and sludge treatment once certain criteria are met. A 50% VAT refund upon collection is applied to certain self-produced products such as gasoline; diesel fuel; waste plastic or rubber oils; petroleum coke; carbon black; recycled pulp; aluminium powder; recycled materials for automobiles, motorcycles, household electrical appliances, pipes, and chemical fibres; and recycled plastic products produced from waste plastics, waste PVC products, waste rubber products, and aluminium-plastic composite paper packaging materials (China Briefing, 2011). China also has a recycling subsidy policy on the reuse and recycling stage of the product life cycle. Simulations conducted by Chang et al. (2016) show that the higher the subsidy levels applied by government, the greater the recycling activity, thus increasing recyclers’ profit. However, the variation of subsidy levels has no impact on manufacturing variables such as innovation, pollution cost, and profit. Therefore, the upstream side must be optimised. Market factor interventions such as innovation ambience, which attracts manufacturers to use more recycled instead of virgin materials, as well as consumers’ awareness of products made from recycled materials, should be considered. Through interventions, the recycling subsidy policy will encourage not only reuse and recycling but also the entire stage of product life cycle.

In Viet Nam, the recycling industry, which started as small-scale craft villages scattered around the country, refers to family-run low-tech industry and thus lack of social and environmental considerations (P4G Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030, 2019). Shifting from a traditional to a sustainable method that complies with environmental regulations is the biggest challenge. Although some large companies have emerged lately, the link between plastic manufacturers and recyclers remains limited. The government should promote recycling industries, including by providing low-interest loans, incentives, and other fiscal schemes. Recycling is mostly governed by the Vietnam Environment Administration under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) at the national level, and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DONRE) at the city and provincial levels. The government issued Circular No. 121/2008/TT-BTC on Guiding Incentive Mechanisms and Financial Supports for Investment in Solid Waste Management, where Article 2.5 states support for research and development of solid waste recycling, reuse, and disposal technologies. The government commits to support up to 30% of total funding for organisations and individuals who plan to invest in the construction of solid waste disposal facilities. The detailed guidance of the scheme is explained further in Joint Circular No. 2341/2000/TTLT/BKHCNMT-BTC. The government has also enhanced market development for recycled products by issuing Decree No. 19/2015/ND-CP on Detailing the Implementation of a Number of Articles of the Law on Environmental Protection, which encourages the procurement of recycled products. Article 47 states that heads of agencies and units using state budget must prioritise the public procurement of products manufactured by certified recycling industries.