Tackling the Plastic Tide in Asia Through Collective Action

With rising levels of ocean waste front of every environmentalist’s mind, the theme for this year’s World Environment Day is a topical choice – “Beating Plastic Pollution”.

Plastic, as a material, revolutionised the way food is packaged, distributed and safely consumed. Packaging is known to account for more than a quarter of plastic worldwide, increasing the shelf-life of many products and making food shopping more convenient for billions of people.

Today though, the world is waking up to the long-lasting impact that inappropriate management of plastic packaging can have on our environment. The volume of plastic waste leaking into our oceans is reaching critical proportions, particularly in Southeast Asia.

By Brocken Inaglory - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12079178

An estimated 30% of all ocean plastic waste – 2.4 million tonnes a year – is contributed by just four countries in the region. The problem is global in its scale and impact, but the source is regional. This means it requires tailored regional solutions, driven by regional stakeholders.

Data will be key to understanding the extent of the issue and developing appropriate solutions. However, until now the narrative about plastics has been mostly emotive and globally focused. We have seen very little research focused on Southeast Asia, or concrete action beyond individual government or business commitments. While there are a range of initiatives and actors in this space, there is little coordination and no shared sense of goals and what will deliver the most impact. Projects are typically small in scale and are struggling to have widespread effect. To streamline efforts and scale up impact, collaboration at all levels is essential.

Solutions must also address the current lack of harmonised standards and guidelines for the food & beverage industry, and for this to occur it is important to view the issue through an Asia-focused lens.

By Daein Ballard [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons

With World Environment Day aiming to encourage everyone to do something for the benefit of the planet, dedicating it to the plastic waste issue is a good step to move from discussion towards action. But the scale of change required needs long-term commitment and collaboration from all stakeholders.

The food industry utilises a significant amount of plastics in its packaging and distribution of products, and FIA believes the industry can play a leading role in developing solutions to stem the tide of plastics leaking into the environment.

As the voice of the food industry in Asia, FIA is galvanizing the industry’s efforts by establishing data on the issue and an in-depth understanding of the challenges faced. We are also identifying potential levers that can create impact, along with platforms for engagement and partnerships which will allow us to move from rhetoric to action.

Data to Enable Action: New FIA Research on Plastic Waste in Asia

Next Thursday 14 June, FIA will host a session at Pro Pak Asia in Bangkok on tackling the plastic waste crisis in the region, exploring sustainable packaging and how collaborative efforts from regional stakeholders can lead to harmonised solutions to help Southeast Asia embrace a Circular Economy.

We will share findings from our recently commissioned study on plastic waste in Southeast Asia, which addresses waste leakage points, reviews the impact of current measures and identifies 31 levers that could yield the greatest impact. It is the first in-depth study on plastics by the food industry in Asia.

Reworking entire supply chains in Asia and developing the appropriate infrastructure to handle plastic waste will not be easy, or fast. But now is the time to start taking action together. FIA would like to invite all stakeholders and interested parties to join the discussion and explore how we can lead a coordinated effort to move the needle.

Find out more here!

FIA issues regular e-bulletins with analysis on relevant food and beverage industry issues across the region. To subscribe to this service, please click here.