Southeast Asia has emerged as a hot spot for plastic pollution because of rapid urbanization and a rising middle class , whose consumption of plastic products and packaging is growing due to their convenience and versatility.
But local waste management infrastructure has not kept pace, resulting in large quantities of mismanaged waste. COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation due to increased consumption of masks, sanitizer bottles and online delivery packaging.
In Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia, more than 75% of the material value of recyclable plastic is lost — the equivalent of $6 billion a year when single-use plastic is discarded rather than recovered and recycled, according to a series of landmark studies by the World Bank Group.
With only 18 to 28% of recyclable plastic recovered and recycled in these countries, most plastic packaging waste is not only left to pollute the environment, littering beaches and roadsides, but its value to these economies is also lost. This needs to change.