A New Treaty on Plastic Pollution - Perspectives from Asia

Posted on 26 October 2021

A new report by a consortium of experts - Ecologic Institute, Alternative Law Groups, Institute of International Legal Studies of the University of the Philippines Law Center, Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law of the National University of Singapore, The Centre for Natural Resources and Environmental Law, Faculty of Law of the Thammasat University – supported by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) for WWF
Marine plastic pollution is a global challenge. The amount of plastic waste entering the oceans every year has increased considerably over the past decades. Once caught up in ocean currents, plastic waste is transported around the world and can have adverse impacts on marine ecosystems. In a globalized world with international trade of plastic products and plastic waste on the one hand and considerable differences in – among others – recycling and waste management capacities between countries on the other hand, national efforts to tackle the challenge are not sufficient.

Marine plastic pollution needs a coordinated global response that facilitates national and regional action. Over the past years, the number of countries calling for a legally binding global plastic pollution treaty has increased. Also, several businesses have joined this call and have signed a manifesto that emphasizes the importance of a coordinated international response to stop plastic pollution. There is now a growing momentum for the establishment of a negotiation process during the second part of the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2) in February 2022. Preparations for and discussions about such a negotiation mandate are ongoing on various levels and between different countries.

This report focuses on the Asian perspective – a diverse region struggling with various challenges caused by plastic throughout its entire life cycle. Different studies indicate that several Asian countries are among the top polluting countries due to plastic waste mismanagement; the continued leakage of plastic waste into the ocean has a significant impact on the marine environment in the region, livelihoods, and public health. As a consequence, governments in Asia are increasingly taking action to stop the plastic pollution crisis – nationally and also regionally.

The report explores challenges and needs experienced by countries in Asia and showcases existing solutions. It identifies common themes and outlines differing views to inform the international debate and to ensure perspectives and concerns of Asian countries are reflected in the elements of a new global plastic pollution treaty. It also aims to raise awareness of national governments in the region and to trigger discussions between them on the way forward and possible negotiation positions. To this end, the report has been prepared in a participatory process with the engagement of national governments via the questionnaire and a workshop.
The amount of plastic waste entering the oceans every year has increased considerably over the past decades.
© Magnus Lundgren / Wild Wonders of China / WWF