Increasing teamwork for green growth

July 05, 2022 | 09:47
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Plastic pollution is more than an environmental challenge. It is a humanitarian crisis that threatens people’s livelihoods and harms the health and wellbeing of those who are most vulnerable and marginalised.
Increasing teamwork for green growth
Trinh Thai Ha - Manager, Vietnam National Plastic Action Partnership

Our statistics say eight million tonnes of plastic waste leak into the ocean every year. Under a ‘business-as-usual’ approach, there will be more plastics than fish in the ocean by 2050.

The pandemic has accelerated the growth of mismanaged plastic waste. If even 1 per cent of disposable face masks are discarded incorrectly, 10 million masks will litter the environment every month. Globally, less than 15 per cent of all plastics that are produced are eventually recycled.

It’s time to move past the ‘take-use-dispose’ mindset and towards a closed-loop approach to plastics – one that transforms the life cycle of plastics at all stages, from production to consumption to re-use.

The Global Plastic Action Partnership (GPAP) is championing the global shift to a circular economy for plastics by adopting a groundbreaking model that allows governments to measure, evaluate and address their national plastic pollution challenges in a structured, systemic way. Indonesia, Ghana, and Vietnam are the first three countries in the world to pioneer this system change approach to adopting a circular plastics economy.

It is necessary to drive the shift from incremental to systematic change. Any effective strategy to tackle plastic pollution must begin with a clear understanding of the scale of the situation. This has proven challenging in many countries given the lack of comprehensive data.

GPAP is the first platform in the world to adopt a model, created by the Pew Charitable Trusts and SYSTEMIQ, that allows governments to measure, evaluate, and address their national plastic pollution challenges in a structured, systemic way.

It is necessary to spark widespread action through tools for changemakers. Early learnings and case studies into actionable and user-friendly guidance for national policymakers and decision-makers should be transformed into practical tools.

These include an open-source online knowledge platform that curates and collates a diverse range of resources on plastic pollution action; and a step-by-step reference guide on how to build the Vietnam National Plastic Action Partnership (NPAP), based on our lessons learned from participating countries. The tools also include an updated and more user-friendly baseline assessment tool that supports governments in delivering an evidence-based understanding of the current situation.

Plastic waste management barriers will be overcome through trade policy. Cross-border frictions and restrictions on movement have significantly impeded efforts to manage plastic waste and achieve a global circular economy. There is a need to identify how trade policies can help ease waste management challenges and accelerate the global transition to a circular economy.

In partnership with the brightest from the plastic pollution research community, we are filling critical knowledge gaps. Specifically, the total mass of mismanaged plastics in Vietnam is expected to grow from 1.53 million tonnes in 2018 to 3.15 million tonnes by 2030. Increasing the after-use value of plastic waste will generate economic growth and significantly reduce plastic leakage into waterways.

Approximately 83 per cent of all plastic waste sent for recycling is collected by the informal sector: 259,000 tonnes directly from residential areas, and 64,000 tonnes from landfills. Around 3.7 million tonnes of plastic waste are generated each year – of which only 11 per cent is currently collected for recycling. The baseline analysis found that of the 58 per cent of plastic waste that was managed, the majority entered engineered landfills.

Solutions must be differentiated by geography to address the various characteristics of the many provinces in the country. A combination of product redesign and policy options will be required to significantly increase the after-use value of plastic waste and divert it to recycling.

The NPAP multi-stakeholder action roadmap guides the decision-makers with an actionable way forward, presenting two scenarios of realistic and ambitious. Three systemic intervention levers include reduction and substitution of plastics; expansion of economically-viable recycling capacity; and expansion of municipal solid waste collection and safe disposal. The NPAP is based on a government-backed cross-sectoral multi-stakeholder partnership. Three strategic pillars are:

l Convening stakeholders by building inclusive and collaborative impact communities at national level;

l Generating insights and action roadmaps by supporting Vietnam to assess plastic value chain and leakage areas, predicting future scenarios, and addressing country-specific issues; and

l Catalysing coordinated action by creating a collaborative ecosystem that enables the implementation of national action roadmaps and incentivises investment.

There are six impact areas when it comes to this. The first is informing policy, which will support policymakers to strengthen policies and regulatory frameworks. Second is transforming behaviour by amplifying initiatives that help citizens and consumers form a more sustainable relationship with plastics.

Next, harmonising metrics will facilitate evidence-based, country-level analysis to create a best-practice framework for measuring plastic waste reduction. Unlocking financing, meanwhile, engages stakeholders to promote investment in tackling plastic waste and pollution.

Fifth, boosting innovation brings visibility to innovations; and lastly, promoting equity and inclusivity aims to ensure diverse voices and inclusive perspectives.

By Trinh Thai Ha

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