by Ellen Putri Edita • 14 March 2022

14 March 2022: Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) presented its recently published Global Plastics Outlook: Economic Drivers, Environmental Impacts, and Policy Options for audience in the Southeast Asia and Japan in the Regional Conference on the OECD Global Plastics Outlook.

The Conference was co-hosted by OECD Tokyo Centre, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), and the 3R International Scientific Conference (3RINCs) Organising Committee. It aims to provide in-depth understanding of the current plastic pollution challenges to implement future policies and actions.

In their opening remarks, Mr Yoshiki Takeuchi, Deputy Secretary-General of OECD and Prof. Toshiaki Yoshioka from Japan Society of Material Cycles and Waste Management, touched upon the increase of global plastic production and consumption and welcomed the efforts undertaken by different countries to overcome the difficulties associated with it.

Representing OECD, Dr Shardul Agrawala, Head of the Environment and Economic Integration Division, presented the general overview of the Global Plastics Outlook, saying that the report contains comprehensive mapping of the lifecycle of plastics globally with high-level technical details, meticulous insights on leakage to land, water, and air, analysis of the effects of COVID-19, analysis of plastics innovation, and coverage of domestic plastics policy landscape. He concluded that the current trend of plastic situation is alarming.

‘In the past two decades, the global plastic use has grown rapidly. It is 40 percent faster than the GDP growth,’ said Dr Agrawala.

Some of the salient findings of the Report are:

  • In the non-OECD countries, a predominant proportion of plastics goes to the landfills or is remained mismanaged and uncollected.
  • In the context of COVID-19, despite the exponential increase of personal protective equipment (PPE) made of plastics, due to the global economic slowdown, overall 2.2 percent decrease in plastics use was observed in 2020.
  • Weight decrease of 2.2 percent, however, is not necessarily a pertinent measure to assess environmental impacts, as health-based waste made of plastics, such as face masks can have a different ways of polluting the water bodies.
  • Markets for recycled plastics remain marginal (6 percent of total plastic production) and needs to be further expanded to encourage higher recycling rate.
  • Environmentally relevant innovation for plastics has been increasing, but remain minimal, and a case study from Japan shows that innovation efforts are influenced by the public policies set in place.

To overcome the overarching issue of plastics, the report proposed some key interventions, including bolstering markets for recycled plastics, boosting innovation for more circular plastics, scaling up international financing and cooperation, and lastly, increasing ambition of domestic policies.

The panel discussion invited Dr Vong Sok from ASEAN Secretariat, Mr Eric Kawabata from TerraCycle and Loop, and Mr Dominic Faulder from Nikkei Asia. This session concluded that the management of plastics must coordinate better with the informal sectors, incentivise the private sectors, and recognize the externalities. Furthermore, the OECD is expected to foster multistakeholder engagement to further develop environmentally-sound plastic management and explore more studies on incineration and grocery sectors.

The conference was closed by Mr Michikazu Kojima from ERIA and Ms Naoko Kawaguchi from OECD Tokyo Centre, who welcomed the Global Plastics Outlook report that provides comprehensive map of global plastics as well as analysis from regional perspectives.