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Recycling all mismanaged plastic waste in South and Southeast Asia could reduce GHG emissions by over 200 million tonnes by 2030

GHG savings across India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam would be equivalent to shutting down 61 coal-fired power plants.

SINGAPORE, 13 July 2023New research by The Circulate Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to solving the ocean plastic pollution challenge in emerging markets, has revealed insights into the crucial link between plastic waste management and climate change.


The “The Climate Benefits of Plastic Waste Management in India and Southeast Asia” report illustrates the potential of investing in effective plastic waste management and recycling across India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and combat climate change. It draws on data from the latest edition of The Circulate Initiative’s Plastic Lifecycle Assessment Calculator for the Environment and Society (PLACES), the first open-access climate impact calculator that tracks the GHG emissions, energy and water consumption of plastic waste management and recycling solutions across South and Southeast Asia.


Key takeaways include:


  • Recycling all mismanaged plastic waste in the six markets across South and Southeast Asia can reduce GHG emissions by 229 million tonnes, the equivalent of shutting down 61 coal-fired power plants.

  • Diverting just one tonne of plastic waste from open burning in any of the six markets towards proper collection and recycling can result in avoiding more than three tonnes of GHG emissions.

  • Incineration and waste-to-energy approaches to plastic waste management in the studied markets can lead to 20 million tonnes of emissions in 2030; this can be avoided by opting for plastic waste recovery and recycling solutions.

  • Meeting the 2030 national recycling targets of the six markets can lead to a 10% reduction in global GHG emissions from plastics end-of-life.


Developed in collaboration with the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), PLACES now covers four additional markets, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam, and provides updated data for India and Indonesia. A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology (SIMTech) contributed as the research partner for the study and quantified the environmental impact of end-of-life pathways for plastic waste.


Since its launch in 2021, PLACES has been used by corporations, investors, recyclers, waste management service providers and city planners to generate market-specific data to quantify the environmental impact of waste management and recycling interventions.


“Ongoing negotiations for the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution are putting the spotlight on the importance of circular economy solutions. Our research demonstrates that investing in effective plastic waste management and recycling can shift the dial to tackle plastic pollution and climate change simultaneously,” said The Circulate Initiative’s Research Director, Umesh Madhavan.


“With the addition of new markets, PLACES will support a broader scope of investors, local governments and corporations in the region to assess opportunities in the plastics circular economy based on their environmental impact.”

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