By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
ASEAN MEMBER countries will sign the Bangkok Declaration to jointly combat the pervasive marine plastic debris problem in the region.
Ministers of 10 Asean countries will gather for the Special Asean Ministerial Meeting on Marine Debris in Bangkok today to discuss issues related to marine plastic pollution and make a regional resolution to tackle this serious threat to marine ecosystems.
Marine and Coastal Resources Department director-general Jatuporn Buruspat revealed yesterday that the meeting’s highlight will be the official endorsement of the Bangkok Declaration, which will be Asean’s first cooperative framework to tackle marine plastic waste pollution in the region.
“The meeting tomorrow [today] will be a historic one, as this is the first time that Asean member countries will formally discuss the issue of marine plastic debris at an official Asean meeting to find solutions together,” Jatuporn said.
“This is a significant step towards safeguarding marine ecosystems and the well-being of the people of Southeast Asia, as this region suffers heavily from marine plastic pollution. Five of the world’s top 10 countries releasing the most plastic waste into the sea are from this region.”
Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia are listed in that order as the biggest polluters of the sea, according to a 2015 study in Science.
As marine plastic pollution is a transboundary problem, Jatuporn emphasised that cooperative measures by Asean countries and contribution from each member state were required to achieve an effective and sustainable solution.
He revealed that among measures in the Bangkok Declaration to tackle marine debris would be a framework for each member state to reduce the release of plastic waste into the sea, based on the regional diplomatic non-interference principle.
State agencies focused on problem
“Representatives from observer countries such as China, Japan and the United States, as well as international organisations and the private sector will also join this |meeting, as we need cooperation from |every stakeholder to deal with this issue,” he added.
Pollution Control Department (PCD) director-general Pralong Dumrongthai said that Thai authorities were also actively working on marine plastic debris reduction.
“Since 80 per cent of overall marine plastic debris is improperly managed waste from land, retrieving up this litter from the sea is not a sustainable solution,” Pralong said.
“Right now, every related agency is cooperating to improve the efficiency of the country’s waste management at every stage – from lowering waste generation, implementing more intensive reuse and recycling, to upgrading the waste disposal system.”
He revealed that the PCD was also phasing out the use of single-use plastic in the Kingdom.
The department banned bottle-cap seals last year, while the PCD was planning to end the use of microbeads in cosmetic products within this year and also ban polystyrene food containers, plastic bags and plastic cups that are thinner than 36 microns by the end of 2022.
However, Sonthi Kotchawat, a leading environmental health expert, said the authorities needed to do more in order to sustainably reduce plastic waste and tackle marine plastic pollution.
“The authorities still rely heavily on promotional campaigns to encourage people to use less plastic, which is ineffective, because most people are already addicted to the convenience of using plastic products,” Sonthi said.
“Instead, we should have regulations and policies to wean the society and economy away from plastic reliance and foster a plastic-free lifestyle among the public.”
Marine debris – a global overview
Ten countries generating the highest amounts |of marine debris on average annually (as of 2010)
1 China 3.53 million tonnes
2 Indonesia 1.29 million tonnes
3 Philippines 0.75 million tonnes
4 Vietnam 0.73 million tonnes
5 Sri Lanka 0.64 million tonnes
6 Egypt 0.39 million tonnes
7 Thailand 0.41 million tonnes
8 Malaysia 0.37 million tonnes
9 Nigeria 0.34 million tonnes
10 Bangladesh 0.31 million tonnes
Ten Thai provinces generating the largest amount of marine debris in 2018
1 Prachuap Khiri Khan 23,600 pieces
2 Samut Prakan 7,900 pieces
3 Songkhla 4,000 pieces
4 Pattani 2,600 pieces
5 Nakhon Si Thammarat 2,600 pieces
6 Bangkok 2,500 pieces
7 Phuket 2,000 pieces
8 Phetchaburi 2,000 pieces
9 Narathiwat 1,800 pieces
10 Chonburi 1,200 pieces
Sources: Jamberg et al, 2015, and Marine and Coastal Resources Department