SEA circular: Solving Plastic Pollution at Source

SEA circular is an initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), supported by the Swedish Government to inspire market-based solutions and encourage enabling policies to solve marine plastic pollution at source.

This project aims to reduce the adverse impact of plastic pollution on the marine environment, by transforming plastic management and preventing waste leakage with a focus on the value chain stages of

1. Production of plastic products,

2. Plastic use, and

3. Collection / sorting / recycling

It is taking a people-centred value chain approach, activities engage national and local government partners; businesses, producers, retailers, and associations in the packaging, consumer and institutional products industry; international development partners and (sub) regional organizations; academia and research institutions; civil society, consumers, and disadvantaged groups impacted by plastic pollution such as informal waste workers and coastal communities.

The target countries include Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines while the knowledge partners are Singapore, Republic of Korea and China.

“Any threat to our environment is a threat to our health, our society, our ecosystems, our economy, our security, our well-being and our very survival.”

The project has four components:

Output 1: Identify and develop market-based solutions to reduce single-use and hard-to-recycle plastics, promote recycling and increase recovery of plastic.

Output 2: Strengthen the evidence base for informed decision making to address marine litter by building national capacities to monitor plastic material flows and assess waste leakage hotspots in line with global best practice.

Output 3: Create widespread outreach to promote behavioural change among consumers and the plastics industry and an enabling space for policy development, building on existing campaigns (e.g. #CleanSeas).

Output 4: Targeted technical support to develop regionally coherent national marine litter planning and promote harmonized methodologies, indicator frameworks and reporting processes/systems in line with the COBSEA Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter (RAP MALI) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) efforts.

SEA circular goals:

1. Increase in the variety of non-plastic and recycled plastic packaging

2. Elimination of single use plastics from selected value chains

3. Escalation in recycling rates and plastic segregation at source

4. Strengthened policy and fiscal incentives to reduce virgin plastic use

5. Growth in consumer demand for plastic pollution reduction

6. The overall aim is for less plastic wasted, with reduced input to, and impact on, the marine environment and its dependent people in South East Asia.

Penang as One of the Two Selected Locations in Malaysia

A regional SEAcircular project entitled “Reducing marine litter by addressing the management of the plastic value chain in South East Asia” which is supported by the Government of Sweden via the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) will be implemented in Malaysia and Penang is one of the selected locations.

The precursor to the Stakeholder Consultation in Penang organized by the Penang Green Council (PGC) with MESTECC previously was the National Consultation that took place on 15 October at MESTECC and a follow-up in Port Dickson from 5-6 November 2019. 120+ stakeholders deliberated and provided feedback on why Penang (comprising of island and mainland, working with two local governments) was chosen as one of the two locations in Malaysia to participate in documenting a case study to help identify and develop market-based solutions to reduce single-use and hard-to-recycle plastics, promote recycling and increase recovery of plastic.

As an urbanised state that has a population of 1.77 million and a total area of 1049 km2 including island and mainland, Penang’s waste management faces a huge problem due to limited land availability. Compared to other states in Malaysia, Penang has only one landfill located at Pulau Burung, Nibong Tebal, South Seberang Perai District (SPS) of Penang. Waste generated by the residents will be sent to the Batu Maung Solid Waste Transfer Station and Ampang Jajar Transfer Station, which are transit points before waste is taken to the landfill in Pulau Burung.

The Solid Waste Management Unit has implemented a Waste Segregation at Source (WSAS) Policy in 2016 for Village Premise; Landed Residential; Low Cost High-rise; Residential High-rise; Factories; Shopping Malls; Government & Institutions; and Hotels & Restaurants in order to reduce the number of waste bound for the landfill.

Besides WSAS policy, Penang state also implemented the total ban on polystyrene packaging, No Plastic Day Campaign, and No Single-use Plastic Campaign in order to divert and reduce the number of waste. There is lack of awareness and knowledge among the community about the impacts of marine plastics towards the environment and the effects of microplastics on marine animals and human health.

Research has been done but transparency of data is still an issue. This inaccessibility poses great challenges for education and awareness initiatives. There is lack of awareness, monitoring, and inspection of waste segregation at source. As a result, unsegregated wastes are still being dumped into the same bin and trucks.

Meanwhile, the Stakeholder Consultation on Penang’s Green Initiatives: Solving Plastic Pollution at Source was held on 27th February 2020 at PAPER + TOAST Powered by Think City, UAB Building, Georgetown Penang to discuss and deliberate on the various green initiatives that have taken place thus far in relation to tackling plastic pollution at source in Penang, as well as planning the way forward for 2020 including the know-how in embedding Circular Economy solutions within the Island and mainland’s ecosystem. Present at the consultation were a diverse range of stakeholders, which included government agencies, private sector, researchers and academia, international organizations, associations, not for profit organisations, recyclers, and non-governmental organisations.

Learn more about SEA circular: