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Transitioning to a circular economy (CE) for plastics in the Asia Pacific: Enabling frameworks, digital tools and frontier technologies to address the plastics value chain

Swati Singh Sambyal



Wednesday, June 29, 2022


Multifunction Hall Room 7
United Nations Human Settlement Programme (UN-Habitat) India Country Office and World Economic Forum
Transforming Cities through Innovative Solutions and Technologies
NE 107


The future sustainability of cities in Asia and the Pacific depends on the ability to innovate and integrate circular solutions for resource efficient and resilient socio-economic development. The region has witnessed a landmark shift, with more than half of its population now living in urban areas. This has significant social, environmental, and economic implications - as the proportion of people living in towns and cities increases, the use and disposal of resources and their related impacts also increase. One of the most critical challenges is the management of plastic waste, where purposeful interventions have the potential to support transformational circular economies and build the foundation for more sustainable communities.

Plastic pollution is a significant issue in the Asia-Pacific region, with plastic waste contaminating land and water resources including rivers, streams, and oceans. It is estimated that of the 8.3 billion metric tonnes (Mt) of plastic produced globally over the past decades, only nine per cent has been recycled, while 79 per cent has accumulated in landfills or the natural environment and up to 13 million Mt enters the oceans annually. If unchecked, the world’s oceans will contain nearly 250 million metric tonnes of plastic by 2025.

Over 80 per cent of marine plastic waste comes from land-based sources, making plastic the most common type of marine litter. Countries with fast growing markets and underdeveloped waste management systems in Asia may be responsible for as much as 60 per cent of global plastic waste leakage. Most of the waste produced in developing countries could be recovered to provide economic, social, and ecological value to societies. However, currently most of the plastic produced is lost to the economic supply chain, causing a serious threat to biodiversity, ecosystems, human health and wellbeing, and municipal budgets. With only 18 to 28% of recyclable plastic recovered and recycled in these countries, most plastic packaging waste is not only left to pollute the environment, littering beaches and roadsides, but its value to these economies is also lost. This needs to change. Transforming how we use and manage plastic is imperative and we must help countries shift to a circular economy (CE) that seeks to design products that create no waste or are reused and recycled.

This transition can only happen by focusing on enabling frameworks that help to shift to circular solutions with a focus on innovative tool, frontier technologies and developing appropriate standards and policies that support this shift−from linear to circular.

The networking event planned as a panel discussion will focus on initiatives and actions to transition to a CE for plastics, digital tool and frontier technologies supporting circularity for plastics and best practice case-studies from Asia-Pacific. The event will have participation from representatives from the World Economic Forum, multilateral and bilateral agencies, national and local governments and private players, who will present insights and case studies on transitioning to a CE for plastics. The innovative tools, good practices and lessons learned from cities/businesses/pilots will be explored to promote inclusive, sustainable, and livable cities focusing on SDG 11 and 12.


The key objective of the networking event is to bring together stakeholders working in the space of CE for plastics highlighting data driven digital tools, enabling frameworks, frontier technologies and policies. The session will explore formulating a roadmap to transition to CE for plastics. The discussant will share best practices in the Asia-Pacific Region with focus on innovation and digitization, standards, informal sector, and their role in CE transition and promoting an inclusive multi-stakeholder approach. Further, the discussants will exchange on how we can promote effective policies, partnerships and institutions that will allow cities in the Asia-Pacific Region to adopt wide CE interventions on the ground.  

Session speakers

Ms. Kristin Hughes
Director, Global Plastic Action Partnership
World Economic Forum
Mr. Sanjay Kumar
Additional Secretary
Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA)
Ms. Anjali Acharya
Senior Environmental Specialist
World Bank
Dr. Graham Alabaster
Chief, UN-Habitat Geneva Office
UN Habitat
Ms. Taylor Maddalene
Director, Circularity Assessment Protocol
University of Georgia
Mr. Martyn Tickner
Chief Advisor, Circular Solutions
Alliance to End Plastic Waste