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Fighting for Trash Free Seas®

Ending the flow of trash at the source

Exploring Solutions to Ocean Plastics

Supporting Southeast Asia’s Informal Waste Sector

Although ocean plastic pollution is a global challenge, its solution requires local action. In places where the plastic crisis is most acute, formal municipal solid waste management systems are insufficient against the vast amount of uncollected plastics (like plastic bags and films) that wash into sewers and through waterways into the ocean. The informal sector, however, is already collecting and processing similar waste and could be a frontline solution to address this crisis.

At the end of 2019, Ocean Conservancy commissioned a research team to investigate the potential for microfinance to incentivize the informal sector to collect more plastic waste. Through conversations with experts and waste workers on the ground in Indonesia and Vietnam (two of the countries most impacted by plastic pollution), the team discovered that the informal sector is more pervasive than generally acknowledged in solid waste management. However, the sector lacks access to appropriate financing that could strengthen the plastic waste value chain and provide incentives to collect more of the low-value plastic waste that so often ends up in the ocean.

While additional research is needed, this analysis recommends a three-pronged approach to fully engage the capacity of the informal sector to prevent plastic waste leakage to the ocean:

  1. Provide the informal sector workforce with information, skills, technology,
    and equipment through existing support organizations;
  2. Expand informal sector processing capacity by financing equipment; and
  3. Stabilize the prices paid for low-value plastics at a level that will
    encourage collection.

All three are required simultaneously to harness the potential of the informal sector to reduce ocean plastics. Ocean Conservancy is working to build a broad-based partnership to further explore this initial insight, as well as test the findings of this report.

Download the Report [PDF]

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