Plastic pollution has emerged as one of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time. It poses significant threats to marine ecosystems, wildlife, and human health. To address this global issue, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Plastic Pollution (hereinafter “INC-PP” or “the Committee”) was established as a dedicated forum for international cooperation and negotiations on this issue.
The INC-PP is an intergovernmental body composed of representatives from various nations. It was established with the aim of developing a legally binding international instrument to address the issue of plastic pollution comprehensively. This Committee serves as a platform for member countries to engage in negotiations, share knowledge, exchange best practices, and coordinate efforts to combat plastic pollution at a global scale.
Plastic pollution has reached an alarming level, with 11 million tons of plastic waste estimated to enter our oceans each year today and this number could triple by 2040. This pollution not only damages marine ecosystems but also poses significant risks to human health as microplastics have been found in our food, water, and even the air that we breathe. Additionally, plastic pollution has adverse economic impacts, including the cost of cleanup and the damage caused to industries such as tourism and fisheries. UNEP has estimated that by 2050, greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use, and disposal, would account for 15 percent of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change. More than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution through ingestion, entanglement, and other dangers.
Recognizing the urgency of the issue, governments, organizations, and communities worldwide are increasingly taking action to address plastic pollution. The historic resolution, entitled “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument”, was adopted with the conclusion of the three-day UNEA-5.2 meeting, attended by more than 3,400 in-person and 1,500 online participants from 175 UN Member States, including 79 ministers and 17 high-level officials. The establishment of the INC-PP reflects a global commitment to finding effective solutions and implementing concrete measures to mitigate this crisis.
This article is to provide an overview of the INC-PP, its meetings, and the outcomes achieved thus far. Furthermore, the article will focus on how Thailand actively engages in tackling plastic pollution. By examining Thailand’s participation in the Committee’s negotiations and its efforts to combat plastic pollution domestically, we can gain insights into the challenges faced by the country and the potential solutions being explored. Ultimately, this article aims to shed light on the progress made in addressing plastic pollution at both international and national levels, with a specific focus on Thailand’s endeavors.
Overview of the INC-PP
The INC-PP was established in 2019 following a United Nations General Assembly resolution that called for the creation of a new international agreement to address the plastic pollution crisis comprehensively. The Committee is composed of representatives from various member states and is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as its secretariat.
The Committee’s objective is to negotiate a global, legally binding agreement that addresses the entire life cycle of plastics, including production, use, disposal, and management. This agreement is aimed at reducing the amount of plastic waste generated and mitigating the impacts of plastic pollution on the environment and human health.
Since its establishment, the INC-PP has held four meetings. The meetings have focused on identifying the main issues to be addressed by the new agreement and exploring potential solutions. The first meeting of the Committee was held in Geneva, Switzerland, in September 2019. At the meeting, the Committee established a working group to develop the text of the new agreement. The working group was tasked with identifying key issues and proposing options for the content and scope of the agreement. The Committee also discussed the importance of involving all stakeholders, including industry, civil society, and academia, in the negotiation process. The second meeting of the Committee was held in February 2020, also in Geneva, Switzerland. At the meeting, the Committee discussed the progress made by the working group in developing the text of the new agreement. The Committee reviewed the proposed options for the content and scope of the agreement and began discussing the legal form and structure of the new agreement. The third meeting of the Committee was held virtually in December 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Committee continued its discussions on the content and the scope of the new agreementreviewing the progress made by the working group. The Committee also discussed the implementation, monitoring, and review mechanisms of the new agreement. The forth meeting of the Committee was held in November 2022 in Uruguay, which was called INC-1, with the aim to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution by 2024.
The ASEAN member countries have played an active role in the negotiations of the INC-PP. The ASEAN region is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of plastic pollution due to its high population density, extensive coastlines, and also high levels of plastic waste generation. As such, ASEAN member countries have a strong interest in finding solutions to this global problem.
Thailand, an ASEAN member country, has been actively participating in the negotiations of the Committee. The country has been vocal in advocating for the need for a comprehensive and legally binding agreement that addresses all aspects of plastic pollution. Thailand has also emphasized the importance of involving all stakeholders in the negotiation process and promoting regional cooperation to tackle plastic pollution.
Overall, the INC-PP represents a crucial step in addressing the global problem of plastic pollution. Its meetings and outcomes have provided a framework for international cooperation and a platform for member countries to share knowledge and expertise. ASEAN member countries, including Thailand, have played a significant role in these negotiations and have underscored the need for comprehensive solutions to this pressing issue.
Plastic Pollution in ASEAN Member Countries: Activities and Challenges
Plastic pollution is a significant environmental and health problem in ASEAN member countries. According to a report by the World Bank, ASEAN countries are among the top contributors to plastic waste in the oceans. The report estimates that the region generates around 4.8 million metric tons of plastic waste per year, with Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam being the top contributors.
Plastic pollution in ASEAN countries is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted solution. The sources of plastic pollution are diverse, from plastic production, consumption, to disposal. In addition, plastic waste management systems in ASEAN countries are often inadequate, resulting in significant amounts of plastic waste being leaked into the environment.
Many ASEAN member countries have taken policy and regulatory measures to address plastic pollution. For example, in 2018, Thailand introduced a ban on single-use plastic bags in major retail stores. In 2019, Indonesia also introduced a similar ban on single-use plastic bags and straws, and Styrofoam. These measures aim to reduce the consumption of single-use plastics and encourage consumers to switch to more sustainable alternatives.
Several ASEAN member countries have also implemented waste management and recycling initiatives to address plastic pollution. For instance, Singapore has developed an efficient waste management system that includes recycling and waste-to-energy plants. Malaysia has also introduced a waste separation program that requires households to segregate their waste into different categories, including plastics, for recycling.
Public awareness campaigns are another approach that ASEAN member countries have used to address plastic pollution. These campaigns aim to educate the public on the impacts of plastic pollution and encourage them to adopt more sustainable behaviors. For example, in 2019, the Philippines launched the “Refuse Single-Use Plastics” campaign, which aimed to reduce plastic pollution through education and advocacy.
Despite the policy and regulatory measures, waste management and recycling initiatives, and public awareness campaigns implemented in ASEAN member countries, plastic pollution remains a significant challenge. Thailand, in particular, faces several challenges in addressing plastic pollution. A few of them can be explained as followed,
- Inadequate waste management infrastructure: Thailand generates a significant amount of plastic waste, but its waste management infrastructure does not have a capacity to handle the volume of waste generated. The country has a low recycling rate, and much of plastic waste generated in the country is sent to landfills or dumped into the environment. In addition, informal waste management practices, such as scavenging and burning of waste, are prevalent in Thailand, which further exacerbates the problem.
- Lack of public awareness and understanding: There is a lack of public awareness and understanding of the impacts of plastic pollution in Thailand. Many consumers are not aware of the negative environmental and health impacts of plastic pollution, and there is a lack of education on the benefits of sustainable behaviors such as reducing plastic consumption and recycling. Additionally, there is a need to educate the public on the importance of proper waste management practices.
- Limited enforcement of regulations: Although Thailand has introduced a ban on single-use plastic bags in major retail stores, there is limited enforcement of the regulations. Many retailers continue to provide single-use plastic bags, and there is a lack of penalties for non-compliance. In addition, the ban only applies to major retail stores, and there are no regulations in place for smaller stores and markets.
- Plastic consumption in tourism industry: Thailand’s tourism industry is a significant contributor to plastic pollution. The country attracts millions of tourists each year, many of whom consume single-use plastics such as straws, bottles, and food packaging. The lack of sustainable tourism practices and the over-reliance on single-use plastics in the industry contribute to the problem.
Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach that involves policy and regulatory measures, waste management and recycling initiatives, public awareness campaigns, and sustainable tourism practices. The INC-PP provides an opportunity for Thailand and other ASEAN member countries to work together with the international community to find effective solutions to this pressing issue.
The challenges faced by Thailand and other ASEAN member countries highlight the need for regional coordination and cooperation to find effective solutions to this issue. The INC-PP represents an opportunity for ASEAN member countries to work together with the international community to address this global problem.
Thailand’s Participation in the INC-PP
Thailand has actively participated in the meetings of the INC-PP. In the first meeting of the Committee, held in Geneva in 2019, Thailand was represented by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Thailand has also participated in subsequent meetings, including the virtual meeting held in December 2020.
During the meetings, Thailand has emphasized the importance of addressing plastic pollution in the region and highlighted its efforts to reduce plastic waste. Thailand has also proposed several initiatives to address the issue, including promoting sustainable consumption and production, enhancing waste management infrastructure, and strengthening regulations on single-use plastics.
While Thailand has taken steps to address plastic pollution, there is still much work to be done. Thailand can explore the following potential solutions to address plastic pollution:
- Policy and regulatory measures: Thailand can implement policies and regulations to reduce plastic waste. This can include increasing investment in waste management infrastructure and promoting extended producer responsibility.
- Public awareness campaigns: Thailand can launch public awareness campaigns to educate individuals about the impacts of plastic pollution and promote sustainable behaviors.
- Corporate social responsibility: Businesses can also contribute to addressing plastic pollution through corporate social responsibility initiatives. This can include reducing plastic packaging and investing in sustainable materials and practices.
- Innovative technologies: Thailand can explore innovative technologies that can more effectively process plastic waste, such as new materials that are more sustainable and biodegradable, and new recycling technologies.
Thailand’s participation in the INC-PP demonstrates its commitment to addressing plastic pollution. By implementing policy and regulatory measures, launching public awareness campaigns, encouraging corporate social responsibility, and exploring innovative technologies, Thailand can make progress towards a more sustainable future. The international community, through the INC-PP, can also work together to find effective solutions to this pressing issue and promote a more sustainable future for all.