Jakarta. Asean recently unveiled a new regional action plan to tackle marine debris, as the planet drowns in plastic pollution.
According to the bloc's secretary-general Lim Jock Hoi, marine plastic debris does not only endanger life under the sea, but microplastics can also invade the human food chain. Plastic pollution also puts fishery and tourism —two sectors that are vital to the region's economies— in jeopardy.
“The volume of solid waste generated across Southeast Asia has rapidly increased in recent years. Fifty three percent of this waste in the region remains uncollected," Lim Jock Hoi told an online conference on Friday.
"Eighty percent of the marine debris is plastic. Similar studies highlight that we will see more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050."
The dire situation prompted Asean to devise an action plan on combating marine plastic debris in the region. The secretary-general revealed the regional action plan would offer three practical solutions across the plastic waste value chains.
"Firstly, we can work towards reducing input into the system by supporting industries in utilizing reusable and recycled materials," he said.
Another solution is to improve solid waste management infrastructure in a bid to enhance collection and minimize leakage.
"Lastly, we need to create a value in reusing waste by improving public perception and providing access to better technologies and practices," Lim Jock Hoi said.
These solutions will serve as a springboard for 14 regional actions across four pillars — namely policy support and planning; research, innovation and capacity building; private sector engagement; public awareness, education and outreach.
Among the 14 regional actions is providing guiding principles for phasing out select single-use plastics.
The regional action plan is to be implemented over the next five years. In its making, Asean also received support from the World Bank via Problue – an umbrella multi-donor trust fund dedicated to promote healthy oceans.
A 2015 study ranked Indonesia as the world's second largest marine polluter after China. The study showed, in 2010, Indonesia produced 3.2 million tons of mismanaged waste with up to 1.29 million tons of plastic waste ended up in the ocean.
The finding has painted a grim picture of Indonesia's plastic waste management.
In response, the government has set a target to slash marine plastic waste by 70 percent by 2025. The Jakarta provincial government has also banned single-use plastic bags in shopping centers, supermarkets, and traditional markets. This ban has forced the public to carry a reusable bag whenever they shop.