Southeast Asian plastics manufacturers have put environmental issues on their agenda for the coming year.
``We have to work on the environment issues positively and expeditiously,'' said Lim Kok Boon, who completed his two-year chairmanship of the ASEAN Federation of Plastics Industries at the end of March.
AFPI members are implementing a number of environmental programs, he said. But the industry's biggest challenge is educating the population of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' member countries - around 520 million people - about the value of recovering clean streams of recycled plastics.
The task is important because some ASEAN countries just now are beginning to set up plastics recycling systems, said Lim. He spoke in an interview in Kuala Lumpur, which hosted a series of concurrent plastics trade fairs and conferences in late March and early April.
An exception, Lim said, is Singapore, which regulates how plastics are disposed. According to that government's data, about 30 percent of Singapore's waste plastics are landfilled and 70 percent incinerated. Ahmad Murshidi, representing Malaysia's state-owned petroleum group, Petroliam Nasional Bhd, or Petronas, presented the data March 30 at the Asia Plastics Forum in Kuala Lumpur.
Comparatively, open dumping in Myanmar is as high as 80 percent, Philippines 75 percent, Vietnam 70 percent, Thailand 65 percent, Indonesia 60 percent and Malaysia 50 percent, he said. Incineration in Malaysia is 5 percent, Thailand 5 percent and Indonesia 2 percent.
Some ASEAN countries are dealing with efforts to ban plastic products - most often, plastic bags. The Philippine Plastics Industry Association Inc., for example, is working closely with government officials to prevent legislation from passing that would ban or reduce consumption of plastic bags. The group plans to launch efforts to recycle more plastics and improve the material's image. PPIA hopes to educate consumers to stop disposing of bags indiscriminately, which causes sewers to clog.