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10 facts about plastic waste in southeast asia
The Philippines recently made headlines when they sent nearly 70 cargoes of imported refuse from Canada. But the Philippines is not alone in their rejection of plastic waste from the developed world. Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand have followed in China’s footsteps to establish a total ban on plastic imports. What is the broader story behind these import bans? What will Canada do with their 70 cargoes of waste? To answer these questions, here are 10 facts about plastic waste in Southeast Asia.

10 Facts About Plastic Waste in Southeast Asia

  1. Worldwide Production: Worldwide production of plastics reached 381 million tons of plastics in 2015, nearly doubling from 213 million tons of plastics in 2000. The packaging industry accounts for nearly 141 million tons of plastic production.
  2. Low Recycling Rates: Only 9% of all plastic is recycled, while 79% heads straight to landfills. Another 12% is incinerated. This means that of the estimated 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic existing in the natural world or in landfills worldwide, only 500 million tons are recycled.
  3. Waste per Capita: China ranks the highest in overall plastic waste disposal, generating an average of around 59.08 million tons of plastic per year. Other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines dispose between 2.5 and 5 million tons of plastic. Comparably, the United States produces an astounding 37.83 million tons of plastic waste, making it the country with the highest political waste per capita ratio. This fact, among these 10 facts about plastic waste in Southeast Asia, highlights that waste management cannot be considered a purely regional issue. It is a global issue.
  4. Plastic Management: Countries in Southeast Asia, Africa, and other low-income countries have the highest shares of plastic waste that is deemed inadequately mismanaged. Just five countries–China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam–produce half of all plastic waste in the world’s oceans.
  5. Growing Alarm: The growing amount of plastic is alarming for many reasons. According to a WasteAid report, nearly 9 million people die each year from diseases related to waste pollutants. There is also a growing concern that microplastics found in the tissues of fish could be dangerous to human health. Additionally, tons of plastic are diverted to dumpsites, which could contribute to 8-10% of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
  6. Huge Imports: While Southeast Asian countries are culpable for mismanaged plastic waste and contamination of the worlds’ oceans, they also import more plastic waste than any other region in the world. Before its ban on plastic, China imported 6.4 million tons of plastic waste in 2017. In the last quarter of 2018, the UK alone exported nearly 18,000 tons of plastic waste to Malaysia.
  7. The US Plays a Key Role: Plastic waste and pollution particularly in Southeast Asia is a problem of poverty and represents a broader dynamic between the developed and developing world. In 2018, the United States sent an equivalent of 68,000 shipping containers of plastic to developing countries who already mismanaged 70% of plastic waste. Workers in places like Vietnam sort contaminated, hazardous plastic waste from the U.S. in poor working conditions for meager pay.
  8. Impact of a Total Ban: With the recent rollbacks on plastic imports to the poorly regulated shores of Southeast Asia, researchers believe China’s ban alone displaced 120 million tons of plastic in 2017. Thailand has followed suit, stating that it will enforce a total ban on plastics by 2021. The introduction of these bans ironically has Australia, Canada, and European countries, facing growing piles of low-quality plastic scraps, a problem they can no longer export away.
  9. World Bank Initiatives: The World Bank has confronted poverty and lack of infrastructure as one of the main ways to address the colossal problem of plastic waste and its relationship to poverty and poor regulations in developing countries. The World Bank has committed $4.7 billion to more than 340 solid waste management programs to improve waste disposal methods in predominantly developing countries. They particularly seek to bolster waste disposal infrastructure, legal regulations, and health and safety, among others.
  10. A Shifting Paradigm: In the developed world, import bans have forced countries like the U.S. to renew investments in recycling infrastructure and public education on issues of plastic waste. Some states have imposed strict regulations on plastic production and consumption, and with more public awareness and subsequent political pressure, more states can follow. On a corporate level, companies like Intel, Eaton, and Texas Instruments recycle more than 85% of their waste, hopefully, with more to follow.

In developed countries, one of the main ways to mitigate this issue is to limit the consumption of plastic products and review the laws that have allowed the harmful trade of plastic waste to places like the Philippines. In developing countries, banning contaminated plastic waste the first step in ensuring that every country takes responsibility for their own waste. These 10 facts about plastic waste in Southeast Asia highlight the numerous components in this growing crisis.

Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, is a half-island nation located in Southeast Asia. With a lack of economic opportunities, Timor-Leste is known to be one of the poorest nations in Asia. Of the country’s population, 42 percent live below the national poverty line, making education a critical resource. Girls’ education in Timor-Leste is a complicated piece of this issue.

Education in Timor-Leste

The government of Timor-Leste recognizes the importance of school for young people as they want all individuals to have access to a quality education that will prepare them for life. In 2010, the Timorese government created a goal to achieve the nationwide completion of basic education in the country. As a result, the educational sector has made significant progress in the last five years, especially for young girls. For both boys and girls, the net enrollment rate grew from 67 percent to 83 percent in those five years. Also, gender disparity decreased substantially in early education.

Young Women are Being Left Behind

Although progress has been made in reaching gender equality, women and young girls are still disproportionately under-represented in undergraduate education. In regards to primary and secondary education in Timor-Leste, girls and boys are almost equal in enrollment. In primary school, 91.3 percent of boys and 90.6 percent of girls participated in their schooling.

However, the gender disparity in education increases as young people approach higher education. For instance, women become greatly outnumbered in higher education. For every 80 women, there are 100 men enrolled. Consequently, the literacy rate for adults 15 and older is 60 percent for women compared to 69 percent for men.

The Challenge of Rural Areas

Girls living in impoverished rural areas have a harder time accessing education in the country. Nearly 37 percent of people aged 15 to 24 are illiterate in rural regions compared to just six percent in urban areas.

Many poor families cannot afford schooling costs such as books, paper or pencils. Also, there is limited access to good facilities in rural areas. Many schools are aging, becoming dangerous for young children to be inside of. Of the basic education schools, 66 percent do not have functioning toilets and 40 percent do not have drinking water.

Timorese student Delfina explains her experience in her local schooling facility before it was renovated by UNICEF. “The building was falling apart. There weren’t enough chairs and the rooms were really crowded. They also flooded when it rained,” she said.

A Hidden Crisis

Young girls are subject to human trafficking and prostitution which interrupts their education but also places their lives in grave danger. Child sex-trafficking is widespread in Timor-Leste, but it specifically targets the girls in the country. There is little formal information available regarding the extent of human trafficking in the country because it is not easily traceable. However, it is still overwhelmingly prevalent. In some cases, poverty in certain remote villages is so severe, families send their daughters to more populated cities or towns to earn money as a prostitute. These girls can be as young as 10-years-old. Many times, girls will become pregnant and return to their villages. They will either have to take care of their baby or be forced back into prostitution.

Organizations Taking Action

Several organizations are helping the nation’s government improve girls’ education in Timor Leste. One, in particular, UNICEF, recognizes the importance of investing in the country’s education system in order to help girls and women receive an education and find their voice in society. The organization focuses on remote, rural areas where schooling facilities can be rare. So far they have helped to build 59 child-friendly schools while also supporting another 62 in the country. These schools are also equipped with learning materials and properly trained teachers.

The World Bank funded the Second Chance Education Project which was a national equivalency program in Timor-Leste. This project aimed to improve literacy rates in adults while also increasing community participation in education. Through this project, nine community educational facilities were created as well as a flexible curriculum that is appropriate for adult students. Because of this program, young adults were given the opportunity to complete parts of their education that they may have missed. This allowed young women to either further their education or pursue a career.

A Bright Future

There is a reason to be optimistic as girls’ education in Timor-Leste progresses with every passing year. Although there is still some work to be done, the status of female education in the country is becoming almost equal to that of their male counterparts. Because the Timorese government and many other organizations recognize the value of educating females in the country, more girls now are able to go to school and realize their full potential than ever before.

– Marissa Pekular
Photo: Flickr

South_east_aisa_farming_opt

Home to 600 million people, the region of South-East Asia is a source of precious resources and a strong work force. Still, many suffer from hunger and malnutrition, which is why it is important to achieve food security in this region. Boosting the agriculture sector in this region is essential to economic growth and development. With the growing obstacles of climate change and depletion of natural resources it is important to focus on creating long-lasting policies and reform on the agriculture sector of this region.

However, farmers are going to need a lot of help from the government to achieve food security in this region. Farms require investment in knowledge and tools as well as having a say in the government. In South-East Asia most farms are very small, usually 2 hectares of land or less, and run primarily by women. The government should focus on policies that support farmer’s organizations, empower and educate women as well as raise awareness about property rights.

World leaders have begun to take steps to implement some of the policies stated above at the World Economic Forum on East Asia taking place in Myanmar. They have proposed a new initiative called New Vision for Agriculture, which is trying to facilitate a public-private collaboration to achieve food security as well as environmental stability. It urges for an increase in investment in agriculture to boost economic growth. It highlights innovative ways for the public and private sectors to work together to achieve the best outcome. Exceptional effort from all actors is necessary to reach the common goal of food security in South-East Asia.

– Catherine Ulrich

Source: WE Blog
Photo: Trend Southeast