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  • Writer's pictureNurul Aisyah Suwandi

Mounting pressure for plastics circularity: Identifying potential pathways for regional businesses (Part 2 of 2)

Updated: Mar 14

This two-part blog series is part of The Circulate Initiative’s efforts to identify areas of support to spur action amongst regional businesses in addressing plastics circularity. This second part of the blog shares some potential pathways for plastics circularity, alongside existing resources.  



Local and regional businesses in South and Southeast Asia (“SSEA businesses”) play a pivotal role in accelerating solutions that address the plastic waste crisis. The first part of the blog series looked at how plastics circularity is viewed by these SSEA businesses and the factors affecting their prevailing attitudes towards addressing plastic waste. This follow-up blog shares some points of action, alongside key resources, that businesses and supporting stakeholders in the ecosystem can consider in their efforts to better address their plastic waste issues. 


Implementing plastic waste interventions alongside effective monitoring and measurement


Based on recent studies [1] and through The Circulate Initiative’s engagements, the following is a non-exhaustive list of plastic waste interventions that are currently implemented by SSEA businesses: 

  • setting targets to reduce plastic waste;

  • making process efficiency improvements to reduce the overall amount of plastic materials used and waste generated in operations;

  • supporting community initiatives that promote waste segregation and recycling initiatives; and

  • providing education and training campaigns for their employees.


For any business in SSEA, prior to implementing any plastic waste intervention, an understanding of the company’s baseline plastic usage and waste is needed to effectively measure and monitor plastic waste generated and the impacts of interventions. Measuring and monitoring plastic waste generated alongside plastic purchased are key progress indicators. As an example, Plastic Scan, developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the social enterprise Searious Business, helps businesses measure how much plastic they use and how much plastic waste is generated along their value chain. Based on the results, businesses receive recommendations on potential improvements to their workflow, enabling them to save money while reducing plastic pollution.


Alongside determining baselines, businesses can consider adopting impact frameworks and metrics. Moving away from tracking anecdotal outcomes of initiatives towards data-driven tracking of the impacts of initiatives can help build a stronger business case for proactive action on plastic. This can also address the risk aversion SSEA businesses face as a consequence of negative internal responses to failed plastic waste interventions. While there is currently no universally accepted framework for corporate plastic waste disclosures, there are five widely used frameworks that have been summarized in Prevent Waste Alliance’s Corporate Plastic Waste Disclosures: Towards a Universally Accepted Framework. Some of these frameworks, such as the ReSource Footprint Tracker and the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, use a digital platform to track and communicate progress towards targets. With improved technology, such sustainable measurement and data-driven market forecasting on the impact and financial return of initiatives will be more viable and affordable.[2]


Linking plastic reduction targets to climate targets


In setting targets to reduce plastic usage and waste, there is also an opportunity for businesses to link these targets to their climate targets. At every step of its lifecycle, plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, making climate change and plastic pollution interconnected stressors on the environment. [3] The Circulate Initiative’s Plastic Lifecycle Assessment Calculator for the Environment and Society (PLACES) enables businesses to assess the extent to which their investments in plastic waste management such as through recycling can generate quantifiable climate benefits. PLACES offers market-specific data, taking into account the unique characteristics of Asian waste management systems. 


Understanding compliance requirements


As discussed in the first part of the blog series, compliance requirements are a key driver for SSEA businesses to take action on the plastic waste challenge. In the early stages of local activation, platforms such as the Global Action Partnership (GAP) for EPR are useful points of reference to better understand extended producer responsibility (EPR) and to get technical support on its implementation. The GAP for EPR platform is a one-stop shop for EPR, packed with resources on EPR development in various countries and opportunities to tap into an international community for knowledge and expertise. The resources available also include Rethinking Plastics’ Handbook for EPR implementation or EPR Toolbox for Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand in their local languages. Through these guides, producers and importers can learn if they are obligated to fulfill recycling or treatment responsibilities; their duties and rights; as well as the procedures and processes to follow in order to comply with the EPR system.


Participating in industry groups to facilitate collective action


Momentum in addressing plastic waste can be achieved through collective action amongst businesses across the value chain. From our conversations with SSEA businesses, we understand that businesses have found great success in working directly with suppliers or customers on plastic waste reduction solutions, from solution identification to deployment. To facilitate such conversations, businesses can consider participating in multi-stakeholder coalition groups dedicated to addressing plastic waste issues. [4] Examples of such groups include the India Plastics Pact, Indonesia’s Packaging and Recycling Association for Indonesia Sustainable Environment (PRAISE), and the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability (PARMS). WWF’s Plastic ACTion (PACT) initiative also invites businesses to participate through sectoral collaboration in the form of peer discussions and collectively identifying easily attainable goals within the industry. The Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty, on the other hand, brings together businesses and financial institutions to support the development of the international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution. Through these industry groups or partnerships, businesses can collaborate on solutions and implement initiatives at speed and scale. 


Concerted efforts and shared commitments towards plastics circularity


The action points presented above are only a few select examples of the potential pathways to achieving plastics circularity. There is a wealth of resources and knowledge that local and regional businesses can tap into for guidance. Engaging these businesses on the critical role they play in plastics circularity would be a key starting point to generate momentum and action in addressing plastic waste issues. With effective implementation of the action points shared and other forms of intervention, local and regional businesses would be able to chart a sustainable and resilient course for the future, for themselves, and for the collective good of the world.


References


  1. Food Industry Asia. (2022). Perceptions on Plastic Waste 2.0: Insights from businesses and consumers in South-East Asia [online]. Available from: https://accesspartnership.com/perceptions-on-plastic-waste-2-0-insights-from-businesses-and-consumers-in-south-east-asia/

  2. EY and The Consumer Goods Forum. (2022). The path to 2030: Delivering a sustainable future [online]. Available from: https://www.theconsumergoodsforum.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/EY-CGF-Top-of-Mind-Report-2022-1.pdf

  3. The Circulate Initiative. (2023). The climate benefits of plastic waste management in India and Southeast Asia [online]. Available from: https://www.thecirculateinitiative.org/_files/ugd/77554d_d343d0200516490ba1ab78cba98ad628.pdf?index=true

  4. Food Industry Asia. (2022). Perceptions on Plastic Waste 2.0: Insights from businesses and consumers in South-East Asia [online]. Available from: https://accesspartnership.com/perceptions-on-plastic-waste-2-0-insights-from-businesses-and-consumers-in-south-east-asia/

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