WB backs marine plastic waste reduction in Asean, PH


World Bank waste reduction

A stage director looks on at the IMF/World Bank Annual Fall Meetings Plenary Session in Washington, DC, on October 18, 2019. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

MANILA, Philippines—With a $20-million grant to Asean, the World Bank is supporting moves to cut on plastic waste being dumped in the region’s waters.

In a statement, the World Bank said its Washington-based board of executive directors on June 22 approved the grant financing for the Southeast Asia regional program on combating marine plastics.

“The project aims to reduce plastic consumption, increase recycling, and minimize leakages to prevent land and sea-based marine plastic pollution. It will also support coastal and blue economies, which are particularly affected by marine litter and its effects on several key sectors — fisheries, tourism, and shipping,” the World Bank said.

Specifically, the World Bank said it and the Asean Secretariat as well as regional and country-level partners will “strengthen policies and regulatory frameworks governing the production and use of plastics in Southeast Asia.”

“Southeast Asia has emerged as a hotspot for plastic pollution because of rapid urbanization and a rising middle class. The economic costs are significant, with the direct damage to key blue economy sectors in Asean member-states alone estimated at $2.1 billion in 2015. Further, the entire lifecycle of plastic, including its manufacturing and transport, creates billions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions,” the World Bank said.

“Reducing plastic pollution in the world’s rivers and oceans requires country-level action and collective, coordinated efforts. We are pleased to help Asean member-states work together to reduce marine plastics pollution and address the negative effect plastics can have on the economy, environment, climate and health,” World Bank vice president for East Asia and the Pacific Manuela Ferro said.

“Our seas and coasts are crucial for our lives and livelihoods, yet they are under immense pressure, especially due to marine plastic pollution, which has the potential to damage human health and negatively impact the tourism and fishing industries vital to our region’s economies. This regional project demonstrates the commitment and resolve of our member states to proactively address this cross-border issue and improve the health of our oceans and the lives of the numerous people in Asean who rely on them,” Asean Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock Hoi said.

Also on June 22, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) unveiled its new flagship program to combat global ocean plastic pollution, called the Save Our Seas Initiative, which the US government’s aid arm said “will include $62.5 million in initial funding and will launch 14 new country and regional programs in key countries and regions that represent 40 percent of total global mismanaged plastic waste.”

In a June 21 report titled “Marine Plastic Management: The Gender Dimensions,” the World Bank said that “an estimated 55-60 percent of global plastic waste leakage comes from five developing economies: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.”

The World Bank listed down the Philippines’ top 10 marine plastic waste items, led by food wrappers; cigarette butts; plastic bottle caps; plastic beverage bottles; straws and stirrers; other plastic bags; plastic takeaway containers; plastic grocery bags; plastic lids; as well as plastic cups and plates.

“An estimated annual household plastic packaging consumption of the Philippines is 1,281,000 tons, with a per capita rate of 12.4 kilograms,” the World Bank said.

“In the Philippines, plastics were the fifth-largest import and as of March 2019, worth $235.04 million, an increase of 14.2 percent over the previous year. Total plastic production in 2019 in the Philippines was estimated at 2,592,000 tons,” the World Bank noted.

In a report last year, the World Bank said that while the Philippines struggled with plastic waste disposal as the 2.7 million tons which Filipinos throw away yearly burdened the environment, recycling these trash could turn into millions of dollars worth of cash.

According to the World Bank report “Market Study for the Philippines: Plastics Circularity Opportunities and Barriers,” the country currently “grapples with unsustainable plastic production/consumption and insufficient solid waste management infrastructure.”

The World Bank had noted that plastics production contributed $2.3 billion to the Philippine economy in 2018, as many poor and middle-income households use cheap consumer goods made available in plastic containers.

“A high dependence on single-use plastics like multilayer sachets and pouches has led the Philippines to become a ‘sachet economy’ that continues to worsen the alarming levels of marine plastic pollution in the region,” the World Bank had said, with about 163 million sachets consumed in the country per day.

Unfortunately, one-fifth of these plastics were being improperly disposed of and just thrown into the ocean, the World Bank had said, such that marine debris had been putting livelihoods in the domestic fishing, shipping and tourism sectors at risk.

The World Bank had said only 28 percent of key plastic resins like polyethylene terephthalate (PET), low density polyethylene (LDPE), high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) were recycled in the Philippines in 2019, even as recycling could not only save but also generate extra cash.

According to the World Bank, “78 percent of the material value of the key plastic resins — upwards of $890 million per year — is lost in the Philippines when recyclable plastic products are discarded rather than recycled into valuable materials.”

It did not help that the Philippines “had a large recycling capacity gap of 85 percent in 2019 (compared to Malaysia and Thailand across all four resins) and is a net exporter of plastic scrap,” the World Bank had said.

Plastics recycling in the Philippines was also hampered by expensive electricity and high logistics costs, an aggressive informal recycling sector edging out formal recyclers, many hard-to-recycle and low-value wastes, low landfill tipping fees, plus low quality of recycled products, the World Bank had noted.

“Many of these challenges are amplified by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Changes in consumption patterns and low waste collection rates have led to supply reductions in the recycling industry, while low oil prices have made it cheaper to use virgin rather than recycled plastic,” the World Bank had said.

To address these barriers to plastics recycling in the Philippines, the World Bank had recommended the following interventions: raising sorting efficiency; setting recycled content goals for all major end-use applications; requiring “design for recycling” standards for plastics; enjoining more chemical and mechanical recycling capacities; creating industry-specific requirements to collect post-use plastics; as well as restricting plastics disposal.

Those interventions would eventually strengthen the demand for and maximize the value of recycled plastics in the Philippines, according to the World Bank.


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