Southeast Asian nations, among worst ocean polluters, aim to curb plastic debris
A summit for leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) being hosted by Thailand is expected to adopt the Bangkok Declaration on Combating Marine Debris in ASEAN Region.
Thailand, the current chair of the group, has lauded the declaration as a “big step” for the region, whose coasts have seen whales and sea turtles wash up dead in recent years with large amounts of plastic rubbish in their stomachs.
ASEAN members Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand are among the five countries throwing the most plastic waste into oceans, according to a 2015 report co-authored by environmental campaigner Ocean Conservancy. China is the worst offender.
“Every ASEAN country agrees that marine debris is a common problem that we must address urgently,” Wijarn Simachaya, permanent secretary of Thailand’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, told Reuters. Unlike the European Union’s central bans and targets, Wijarn said the ASEAN declaration will outline broad ideas but it will be up to each country what it would take home to implement.
“This declaration will be a new milestone, but it will be just words on paper if there is no change in policies,” Tara Buakamsri, director of Greenpeace Thailand, told Reuters. He said ASEAN countries should urgently all ban single-use plastic first for the declaration to be effective. “There is no other way,” Tara said.