THE CROSS-BORDER nature of plastic pollution in Southeast Asia will require a regional approach to mitigate its impacts, the World Bank (WB) said.

“Southeast Asia is a hotspot for plastic pollution, largely due to rapid urbanization, a growing middle class, and underdeveloped waste management infrastructure,” the World Bank said in a blog posted on June 4.

“Countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand are some of the major contributors of mismanaged plastic waste, while nations like Cambodia and Lao People’s Democratic Republic or Laos grapple with escalating plastic waste issues that strain existing waste management systems,” it said.

According to the lender, more than half of waste generated by the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are uncollected and less than a quarter is recycled.

To address this, the World Bank approved a $20-million grant for the Southeast Asia Regional Program on Combating Marine Plastics (SEA-MaP) last year.

“This innovative regional initiative aims to reduce plastic consumption, enhance recycling, and minimize leakage to prevent land and marine-based plastic pollution in Southeast Asia,” it said.

“With its focus on practical solutions, this regional program is not just a response but a proactive strategy for action. This pioneering initiative is helping Southeast Asia turn the tide on the plastic pollution crisis and provides a promising model for future engagements in other regions,” it added.

The program supports country-level investments and supports capacity-building initiatives to strengthen waste management.

“The private sector also plays an instrumental role in magnifying the project’s impact. The program thus aims to create an enabling policy environment for investment in plastic pollution solutions and mobilize private finance for innovations, such as business models for packaging reuse and refill, and waste segregation technologies,” it said.

It will also implement a regional platform for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

“The EPR platform will build upon early experiences of EPR implementation in the Philippines and knowledge exchange on EPR with Korea, which will provide insights into support needed in the region,” the World Bank said

In 2021, ASEAN launched a regional action plan to combat marine debris.

“This comprehensive strategy outlines fourteen priority actions for regional and national implementation to strengthen policies, build capacity and awareness, and engage the private sector,” the World Bank said. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson