Reducing plastic pollution by tapping into systemic design
Plastics play a critical role in maintaining food quality, health and safety - and are cheap to produce. On the flip side: 8 million tonnes of plastics end up in our oceans every year and 50 percent of annual production is single-use. Almost half of all plastics produced globally originates from Asia and the region is responsible for over 80 percent of the ocean plastic waste. National and local governments across the region are asking for systemic and evidence-based approaches to deal with this issue - against which traditional efforts and siloed one-off interventions have proven wholly inadequate.
Plastic waste is the result of two key functions, waste generation and waste management. Perfecting waste collection and recycling plants is often not enough, as consumers may still generate unsustainable amounts of waste. That is why UNDP is supporting governments in the region with circular economy strategies to tackle both sides of the coin. Through pilots in Vietnam, Maldives, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, UNDP helps map different human experiences behind plastics pollution – interviewing households, informal waste pickers and waste management companies – to support policy makers in better understanding behaviours within the plastics system and shift approaches to waste disposal. Based on these analyses, a portfolio of experiments is being designed – covering policy and regulations, awareness raising, transparency and accountability, technology and infrastructure – that work across the waste generation-management spectrum. The project started in Vietnam and the Maldives in late 2019 and in the Philippines and Sri Lanka in 2020.