SEA of Solutions 2019 breakfast with esteemed guests

The finale of SEA of Solutions 2019 was the Forum for plastic pollution solutions

The culmination of a week filled with energy, action and debate was the Forum on plastic pollution solutions. Today saw national government representatives, CEOs, youth and community leaders brought together for four discussion sessions covering key aspects of the plastic pollution conundrum: Trade in plastic waste, packaging and finance. We ended with a series of inspiring pledges, launching us on to further collaboration and action, towards less plastic wasted.

Dechen Tsering, Regional Director, UN Environment Programme, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific reviewed three stimulating days of discussions at SEA of Solutions, covering science and research, the shifts made by the private sector to embrace circularity, and the ambitious and inspirational actions of youth and civil society - together bringing interesting and valuable solutions. She encouraged the strengthening of collaboration and partnerships - particularly between sectors – and called for an escalation of dialogue and action. She welcomed commitments from various sectors, towards real transformation and collective solutions.

H.E. Helen Ågren, Ambassador for the Ocean, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs highlighted how solutions to tackle marine debris and plastic pollution are within our reach, and how this region is on a positive trajectory. She noted how strong policies mandating material recycling, combined with investment in infrastructure and facilities, are scalable in the ASEAN region.

H.E. Varawut Silpa-archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Kingdom of Thailand demonstrated how Thailand is setting the agenda to manage plastic pollution, not only at a national level, but also regional. Thailand hosted the 5th ASEAN summit, which established a common regional framework on marine debris. In Thailand this has led to actions and solutions, including 48 retailers planning to terminate the distribution of single-use plastic bags in 2020, and a ban on single-use plastic bags in 2021. Effective awareness raising campaigns are also making a difference at the community level.

A TED-talk style keynote was presented by Lillygol Sedaghat, Spokesperson for Global Planet or Plastic Campaign, National Geographic, demonstrating the creative ideas and new technologies - across generations and nations - to tackle the challenge of plastic pollution. She explored four ‘Stories of solutions’ from the region, covering grassroots actions, locally applied science, business and innovation.

“I look forward to plastic pollution prevention commitments, in which accountability is embedded, so that actions can lead to transformation.”

Dechen Tsering, Regional Director, UN Environment Programme, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

“Here in this region, a strong foundation for accelerating action on marine plastic pollution prevention has been built.”

H.E. Helen Ågren, Ambassador for the Ocean, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs

“The concept of 3 R's might not be enough any longer. We need 4 R's - rethink, reduce, reuse and recycling.”

H.E. Varawut Silpa-archa, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Kingdom of Thailand

“Inspiring stories of changing societies and paradigm shifts show us what can be possible. We have the capacity to turn plastic pollution into plastic solutions.”

Lillygol Sedaghat, Spokesperson for Global Planet or Plastic Campaign, National Geographic

Take it Back! Bring it Back!: Solutions for illegal trade in plastic waste

Various policies addressing the transport of plastic waste have emerged in recent years. Solutions lie in reframing viewpoints on “plastic waste”. Transformational solutions can emerge through finding value in the recovery of post-consumer plastic. Finding value in plastic is a productive area for investment. Solutions 'in country' involve finding productive and lucrative ways to keep plastic 'onshore'. Investment in nationally mandated recycling in 'source' countries is vital. This will support the eradication of the illegal trade in plastic waste.

Discussants from across the plastic value chain agreed that international and regional dialogues which lead to consensus on handling plastic waste are vital, to discourage the illegal trade in plastic. Policies, international treaties and market-based instruments are some of the tools which can tackle the international displacement of plastic waste. Valorizing post-use plastic at the local level is not only beneficial in reducing marine litter, but also land-based plastic pollution. This requires a shift in mindsets - whereby used plastics can become a valued commodity, rather than a transboundary challenge.

“The illegal trade in plastic waste has always existed, but there has been an important shift recently with increased regulation in some key import countries. Enforcement brings valuable protection in trade processes, but solutions won't be found through enforcement alone.”

Benedicte Niel, Principal Agent, Global Pollution Enforcement Team, Environmental Security Programme, INTERPOL

“When policies are stricter, the plastic waste trade will inevitably shift. What's needed is regional and global cooperation on illegal trade in plastic waste policies, so that the waste won’t just shift to the next country when regulations are implemented in one country.”

Huib van Westen, Coordinator, Regional Enforcement Network for Chemicals and Waste

“We seek cooperation with the exporting countries, so as to avoid eventual repatriation of waste. We are eradicating international pollutants of our land and marine environments."

Zuraini Ahmad Tajuddin, Senior Principal Assistant Director, Department of Environment, Selangor, Malaysia

“Prior Informed Consent means that one operator in country 'A' needs to obtain an agreement with the importing country 'B', which certifies that the waste will be managed in a way which is environmentally sound."

Carlos Martin-Novella, Deputy Executive Secretary, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

“We’ve got a fundamental flaw in our language; we’re calling it plastic waste. Every time we call it plastic waste, we don’t give it value. To change behaviour, we need to change the perceived value of materials. I call it resources; plastic resources”

Louise Hardman, Founder & CEO, Plastic Collective

“We seek collaboration and consensus about the plastic materials which must be banned from entering our region. We need a proactive and global approach to combating plastic pollution in Thailand."

Naporn Popattanachai, Director, Centre of Natural Resources and Environmental Law, Thammasat University

I want to live forever: Solutions to close the loop for packaging, recycling and e-commerce

Solutions presented in this session included; enabling circular economy approaches, and embedding environmental education to increase knowledge about plastic and recycling. Emphasis was laid on adding value to plastic resources through enforcement of regulations at the regional, national and local levels, through incentivizing the collection of plastic and regulating the consumption of plastic, including banning single-use plastics.

The need to substantially reduce the production of virgin plastics - to reduce and reuse plastics by industry and by businesses - was considered paramount. Forging collaboration and partnerships between various stakeholders - industry, businesses, civil society and governments - will be key to find a holistic, long-lasting and comprehensive way to responsibly consume plastic. Valuing plastic can be achieved through incentivizing recycling schemes and finding better uses for recycled plastic. Comprehensive approaches must be employed to tackle plastic pollution through legislation and enforcement, such as a ban on plastic products designed for single-use. Businesses should design their packaging so that it can be reused, or composted. There is an imperative to foster dialogue between businesses, environmental activists and local governments, to make them part of the solution

“It is critical to reduce the amount of plastic entering the system, before we can tackle this challenge through increased recycling."

Laksmi Dhewanthi, UNEA Vice President, Senior Advisor to the Minister on Industry and International Trade, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Republic of Indonesia

“We must connect the dots between communities and businesses - from one family to a small community to bigger networks and whole waste management infrastructure."

Paradorn Chulajata, Managing Director, Pre Pack Thailand and Chairman, Plastic Industry Club, The Federation of Thai Industries

“Transformational change is needed to foster solutions. Any trend would go against our efforts in the use of plastic if it’s encouraging business as usual.”

Sooksiri Chamsuk, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

"E-commerce and digitalization can reduce plastic products and operationalize a volume-based waste management and collection system."

Mark Fletcher, Head of Insights, Power Retail & Principal, Shop Science

“Education, but more importantly regulation, will have a lasting impact in combatting marine litter.”

Giuseppe Busini, Deputy Head of Mission, European Union Delegation to Thailand

"Indorama Ventures thinks that plastic pollution is a “civil duty” rather than corporate responsibility alone."

Richard Jones, Senior Vice President, Indorama Ventures

Money money money!: Solutions to address plastic pollution through finance for innovation and technology

Solutions to plastic pollution through finance and innovation are about putting the right price on the market, policy reform and behaviour change. Scaling up new innovations, which are designed to replace, reduce, or reuse plastic, innevitably require finance and investment to reach the next level of imact. Organizations with environmental or social protection values may often seem as challenging investments to business investors, due to high capital intensity and high execution risk. Solutions to this challenge are two-fold: On the one hand, finance and investment organizations are seeking more nuanced and deeper knowledge and advice about how to conduct due dilligence to holistically assess 'environmentally sound' investment opportunities. On the other hand, there is a need for financial capacity building within environmental organizations. Discussants called for more support to scale up innovations - potentially through 'seed money' which can be accessed by organizations with a goal to seek solutions to plastic pollution through interventions at key points along the value chain. If they can demonstrate success, doors could be opened which would invite big money to step in and impact to be upscaled. Environmental organizations and investors both need to take some risks to scale up impact.

Alternative opportunities for financing focus on the “polluter pays” principle. There are examples of businesses providing financial and livelihood support to wastepickers, or ensuring that collected waste is both renumerated and reused. There is money to be made in valuing plastic waste and enabling circular economy principles. Established businesses and financiers can provide stewardship – in terms of time, talent and treasure - to shift new technologies and innovations towards scalability and profitability.

"To businesses producing plastics, and those benefitting from recycling plastics - wastepickers are seeking livelihood support and social security. They should not be left behind."

Nalini Shekar, Co-founder, Hasiru Dala Innovations, Bangalore

"PETCO financially supports the wastepickers with tools of trade, leading to 68% recycling of PET bottles. We believe that if you want to go quick, you go alone, if you want to go far, you go together."

Casper Durandt, Chairman, PETCO

"It is important to provide not just money, but stewardship – in terms of time, talent and treasure."

Stephen Sikra, Senior Advisor, Alliance to End Plastic Waste

"Financial capacity building for environmental non-profits would greatly increase chances of investment. Investers are also seeking viable opportunities to invest sustainably and in a way that is environmentally sound."

Sharinee Shannon Kalayanamitr, Venture Partner, Gobi Partners

"Addressing plastic pollution is about putting the right price to the market and policy reform."

Christophe Crepin, Practice Manager for East Asia and Pacific Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy, World Bank

Voices for solutions to the plastic pollution conundrum

Throughout South-East Asia, there are countless initiatives and plans to avoid plastic becoming waste. This session heard from innovators, government officials, trade representatives, educators, civil society and youth. Each spoke of the importance of seeking the right solutions to the plastic pollution conundrum. Pledges were presented on ways to ensure less plastic is wasted. Some pledges called for a culture shift; new ways of dealing with and thinking about waste. Others offered investments into proven solutions and methods. Youth leaders pledged to continue pushing for a sustainable future and clean seas.

"The Government of Japan is determined to lead the G20 “Osaka Blue Ocean Vision” - aiming to reduce additional pollution by marine plastic litter to zero by 2050."

Tokuaki Shobayashi, Deputy Director General, Global Environment Bureau, Ministry of Environment Japan (MOEJ)

"Indonesia will develop a Regional Capacity Center for Clean Seas (RC3S) in Bali, Indonesia, which will support all stakeholders at regional, national and sub-national levels."

Amb. Makarim Wibisono, Senior Advisor for Minister of Environment and Forestry, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Republic of Indonesia

"Mae Fah Luang University pledges to transform our campus into a living lab for circular economy. We aim to achieve 80% landfill diversion in the next three years."

Chayaporn Wattanasiri, President, Mae Fah Luang University

“We recognise that climate change and plastic waste are serious issues, thus an integrated approach will be taken to solve those issues in the value chain.”

Yoshikazu Uehara, Managing Director, Mitsui Chemicals Singapore R&D Centre

"Hasiru Dala Innovations pledge to continue working with the waste pickers network, supporting their livelihoods and incomes, and contributing to the sustainable processing of waste."

Nalini Shekar, Co-founder, Hasiru Dala Innovations, Bangalore

“Sri Lanka is committed to encouraging more partnerships and multi-stakeholder collaborations, to promote a more circular economy.”

H.E. Samantha K. Jayasuriya, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Thailand

"Indorama will invest USD 1.5 billion towards our target of producing at least 750,000 tonnes of recycled PET per annum by 2025."

Aloke Lohia, Founder and Group CEO, Indorama Ventures Limited

"Coca-Cola pledges to immediately switch from green to clear PET plastic bottles for Sprite™ throughout South-East Asia in 2020, to make these bottles easier to recycle."

Belinda Ford, ASEAN Director of Public Affairs, Communications and Sustainability, Coca-Cola ASEAN

"We pledge to educate youth to achieve our goals for a Clean Seas Pilipinas, focusing on proper waste management, recovery, and recycling."

Antoinette Taus, Founder, Communities Organized for Resource Allocation (CORA)

"Grin Green International pledge to work towards the eradication of single use plastic in Asia through student-led advocacy, awareness-raising, eco-merchandise and education. Kids have the power to change the world."

Ennio Lamari, CEO, Grin Green International

"I am the voice of billions of youth worldwide, who will inherit this world you leave behind. Together we must seek solutions to achieve a sustainable and circular economy by 2030."

Louise Mabulo, UN Young Champion of the Earth 2019

Thank you for joining the SEA of Solutions 2019 - partnership week for marine plastic pollution prevention. See you in Viet Nam for SEA of Solutions 2020.