Skip navigation
Other publication

Closing the Loop

Arising from the increasing concern about plastic waste contaminating the natural environment in Asia and the Pacific, the Closing the Loop initiative set out to foster a development pathway that integrates the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainability with the more efficient management of natural resources and a natural environment that supports human well-being and shared prosperity in Asian and Pacific urban areas.This regional guide, and its accompanying two case studies from Bangkok, Thailand and Pune, India is an output of this Initiative.

Diane Archer, Oliver Johnson / Published on 21 March 2019

Separating labels from bottles at a plastic recycling in Bangkok. Photo: Nguyen Thi Trang

Plastic waste management is one of the Asia-Pacific region’s pressing challenges – with consequences for the environment and economies. Plastic waste presents a challenge to closing the loop for a circular economy. Globally, 90.5 per cent of plastics are never recycled. Ineffective and insufficient waste management practices result in leakages of plastic waste in to the wider environment.

Every year, 8 million tonnes of plastic materials enter our oceans, on top of the estimated 150 million tonnes that circulate in our marine environments. McKinsey & Company and the Ocean Conservancy estimated in 2015 that five Asian countries – China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam – may account for up to 60 per cent of the plastic waste leaking into the Pacific Ocean. Though it is being reviewed, this initial finding spurred the realization and urgency of the need to act on plastic waste in the Asia-Pacific region.

Mismanaged waste has impacts on natural resources, the natural environment, human lives and an economy. Plastic takes an extremely long time to decompose in the natural environment and is often the most visible component in waste dumps and open landfills. Plastic damages the environment, causes loss of coastal and marine biodiversity and has negative impacts on human health because its chemicals affect endocrine systems.

This growing burden of plastic waste in the Asia-Pacific region led to Closing the Loop Initiative, a project partnership between SEI, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat, Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing and other stakeholders, including the municipal administrations in the two case study cities, Bangkok and Pune, India. The project has produced three reports: a regional guide and individual reports on the two case studies in Bangkok and Pune.

SEI authors

Diane Archer

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Asia

Design and development by Soapbox.