Asia's plastic industry groups say they want to step up involvement to combat ocean litter and marine debris from plastics, as part of a global effort launched earlier this year by the industry in North America and Europe.
While the Asian groups did not detail any specific new initiatives, industry officials at an annual gathering of business associations in Bangkok on Aug. 30 said they would develop regional strategies and form an Asian cluster, with groups from India, Japan, Malaysia and possibly Australia taking the lead.
The Asian industry is under increasing pressure on litter, including bans on plastic bags like one enacted earlier this year in India, according to Callum Chen, secretary-general of the Asia Plastics Forum, which organized the Bangkok meeting. The industry needs more information about what has worked elsewhere and could be adapted in Asia, Chen said.
“Governments and [non-governmental organizations] single out plastic as a punching bag,” Chen told the forum. “If we do not do something drastic and very quickly, it will lead on to other things. If I think plastic bags are not my problem, I am wrong. It will go up the value chain.”
The global effort launched in March with a declaration signed by 47 industry associations, including PlasticsEurope, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association and two chief groups in the United States, the American Chemistry Council and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc., both based in Washington.
Wilfried Haensel, executive director of Brussels-based PlasticsEurope, addressed the Asian groups in a private session Aug. 29.
In an interview on the sidelines of the APF meeting Aug. 30, Haensel said it was too early to discuss specific plans in Asia. But he said as an example that the Operation Clean Sweep program to control pellet litter and waste at factories in the United States could be brought to Asia.
The Asian groups said they would work on the priorities identified by the global effort, including:
* Developing public-private partnerships aimed at preventing marine debris.
* Working with the scientific community to better understand the problem and possible solutions.
* Enforcing existing litter laws, and strengthening recycling and energy-recovery programs.
Haensel said the plastics groups plan to meet next in mid-November in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to discuss further steps.
Chen, who also is CEO of Malaysian molder Lee Huat Plastics Industries Sdn. Bhd., said the declaration has been signed by industry groups in India, Japan, Malaysia and the Philippines, and he said Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia also are likely to join.
He said he hoped the remaining countries in the 12-member APF would participate.