This picture taken on June 4, 2018 shows a man sorting through used plastic bottles at a junkyard in Hanoi. (Photo: AFP)

Hanoi (VNA) – Southeast Asia is home to the world’s top marine plastic polluters and environmental protection goals set by the governments of regional countries are insufficient, warned experts on World Environment Day (June 5).

Globally, some 8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the oceans every year, threatening the marine life and entering the human food chain, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

Five Asian countries, including China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand, account for up to 60 percent of the plastic waste leaking into the oceans, according to a 2015 report by the environmental campaigner Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Centre for Business and Environment.

The five economies have "generated exploding demand for consumer products", the report said, but lacked the waste management infrastructure to cope with the surge in plastic garbage.

In Thailand, months after the military seized power in a 2014 coup, the junta made waste management a priority and set goals for 2021.

They included cutting the use of plastic bags and bottles in government agencies and businesses and plastic bans in tourist destinations. A tax on plastic bags was also mentioned, along with a target to recycle up to 60 percent of plastic by 2021.

Other governments have also set ambitious goals. Indonesia, ranked second behind China in the 2015 study of mismanaged plastic waste from communities living near coastal areas in 192 countries, has pledged 1 billion USD a year to reduce marine plastic debris by 70 percent by 2025.

The Philippines has not imposed a nationwide ban on plastic bags, but some local authorities regulate the use of the products. Some shopping malls have also replaced plastic bags with paper ones and encouraged reusable bags.

Malaysia is likely to introduce a nationwide ban on plastic bags soon, said government officials.

Anchalee Pipattanawattanakul, an ocean campaigner with Greenpeace in Southeast Asia, said the region needs a coordinated strategy on plastic waste. She noted that ASEAN countries are aware of the issue, but there is no action plan that will actually decrease the use of plastic.

Susan Ruffo, Ocean Conservancy's managing director for international initiatives, stated that recognising the impact of plastic waste is not just a government responsibility, as corporations, civil society and citizens all have a part to play.-VNA