According to a statement by Greenpeace, the Bangkok Declaration and the ASEAN Framework of Action on Marine Debris is a good example of how regional action can be achieved to address a common challenge.
However, the Framework remained inadequate in solving the problem of plastic pollution at its core by prioritizing waste management instead of the need to lessen the production of single-use plastics to prevent them from ending up as waste, Muharram Atha Rasyadi, urban campaigner of Greenpeace Indonesia, noted in the statement on Tuesday.
Plastics is a problem related to pollution rather than litter and must be tackled during the course of its life cycle, from production till the end of life.
Restricting the scope of the Framework to marine debris lays focus only at the end-of-pipe treatment after plastic has been manufactured and approaches the problem as a waste recovery, management, and disposal issue.
However, the issue does not concern how to manage plastic waste to prevent it from ending up as marine debris but how all nations must direct their sights upstream and significantly lessen plastic production.
While the Framework covered innovation and alternatives, it lacks the vision to develop apt systems, not solely for substituting packaging with other disposable materials. In the face of technological advancements, the ASEAN governments can develop "greener" innovations to help encourage a change in mindset on single-use plastic.
In a bid to efficiently lessen plastic pollution, on land or at sea, ASEAN nations must transcend this Framework and institute policies at home that ascertain significantly lesser manufacturing of single-use plastic products.
This can be achieved through regulations and imposing bans on single-use plastics, as well as putting in place laws that will encourage redesigning of packaging and product delivery systems.
Most importantly, the Framework was unable to address the problem of waste imports, which have serious ecological and social repercussions.
ASEAN’s non-action on the waste trade issue, even those for recycling, is a cause for concern when the summit is the best time to address it, according to Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
"Greenpeace reiterates our recommendations for ASEAN to impose an immediate ban on all imports of plastic waste, even those meant for 'recycling' and ensure all ASEAN countries ratify the Basel Ban Amendment," the statement noted.
The ASEAN must create a holistic regional policy directed at considerably lessening the production of single-use plastic packaging and products and facilitating innovation on reusable packaging and alternative delivery systems.
Last but not least, the regional grouping is required to advance a sustainable and ethical circular economy framework, grounded on zero-waste approaches, that safeguards human health and the environment, and facilitates the ASEAN region to decouple growth from excessive resource extraction, production, consumption, and wastage.
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