Perceptions on Plastic Waste 2.0: Insights from businesses and consumers in South-East Asia

Perceptions on Plastic Waste 2.0: Insights from businesses and consumers in South-East Asia

Plastic waste is a significant issue in Southeast Asia, causing problems such as food chain contamination, adverse health effects from microplastics, and pollution of land, water, and air. This environmental problem arises from factors like inadequate solid waste management systems, unsustainable plastic production and consumption patterns, urbanisation, and economic growth.

In response to this challenge, Access Partnership collaborated with Food Industry Asia (FIA) in 2020 and 2022 to assess the understanding of plastic waste issues in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam – countries that significantly contribute to marine plastic pollution. This study aimed to comprehend the attitudes of businesses and consumers towards plastic waste, their current efforts in addressing the issue, and perspectives on the best approaches to tackle these problems. The study also tracks changes in perspectives from 2020 to 2022, overlapping with events such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key findings of this study include:

  • Although consumers express concern about plastic waste, their habits are not changing. While 88% of consumers are concerned about plastic waste issues, only approximately half of them are willing to switch to products made from recycled materials. This finding is consistent with the 2020 results.
  • While consumers are currently committed to reducing their environmental impact, they are keen to broaden their efforts to tackle plastic waste and take further 3R actions in the future. For instance, while only 33% of consumers currently abstain from buying products with non-recyclable packaging, a significant 55% express interest in doing so in the future.
  • Businesses recognise that their current efforts are insufficient. Although 85% of businesses express concern about plastic waste issues, only 53% believe that their current actions are sufficient.
  • Business targets related to plastic waste need to be strengthened. While 88% of businesses have targets to address plastic waste, the majority (72%) only communicate these targets internally.
  • Many businesses have yet to engage in industry collaborations to address plastic waste issues. Over half of businesses (54 percent) in the five countries are not engaged in any group tackling plastic waste issues. In Malaysia and Vietnam, participation in such groups has increased by over ten percentage points compared to 2020. However, this figure has decreased by 20 percentage points in Indonesia and Thailand.
  • Both consumers and businesses want and expect further action by governments. Consumers and businesses recognise that governments are concerned with plastic waste. Key actions by government considered most critical include enhancing waste collection systems, mandating waste segregation, providing more financial incentives on recycling, and developing labels for sustainable packaging.

You can find out more about our first edition of the report conducted in 2020 here and the full report from our recent follow-up study in 2022 here. You can also access our key study findings in the UN Ocean Conference Event Report as well as our presentation at the UN Ocean Conference here.

For more information and to work with us in this critical area and related fields (e.g., how technologies can mitigate challenges in the packaging waste space), please contact Cheng Wei Swee and Megan Lim.

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