Countries in Southeast Asia need stricter plastic policies to reduce emissions

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One of the worst ocean polluters in the world, Southeast Asian countries needs stricter plastic packaging laws to curb leakage, a UN report said on Wednesday.

Southeast Asia is a major contributor to land-based plastic waste leaking into the world’s oceans, with more than half of it coming from four nations – Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand – along with China, the top single polluter.

Many countries in the region are struggling with poor waste sorting and disposal systems, and their population growth and explosive consumer product demand mean that more single-use plastic ends up in landfills or leaks into the environment.

In an 89-page report, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said that Southeast Asia, home to 641 million people across 10 countries, needs to introduce regional policies to regulate plastic packaging.

According to previously published UNEP data, around eight million tons of plastic are dumped into the ocean each year worldwide, killing marine life and entering the human food chain.

Whales and sea turtles with huge amounts of plastic waste in their stomachs have been found dead in the area in recent years.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders adopted in June.

However, it is questionable whether the declaration will be implemented since ASEAN has a non-interference code in member states that would leave the necessary policymaking in the hands of individual countries.

Some Southeast Asian governments have already put in place broad plans and timetables to reduce their plastic addiction.

Thailand plans to ban seven types of plastics that are most commonly found in the ocean between now and 2025, such as bottle cap seals, disposable bags, cups, and straws.

A ban on plastic bags in supermarkets and department stores belonging to 43 companies was approved by the Thai cabinet this week, starting on January 1, 2020.

The government said the policy was expected to save from incineration or landfill 45 billion single-use plastic bags per year, or 225,000 tons.

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