Rethinking Plastics: Circular Economy Solutions to Reduce Marine Litter

Project description

Title: Rethinking Plastics – Circular Economy Solutions to Marine Litter
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Co-funded by: European Union (EU) 
Country: China, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam
Overall term: 2019 to 2022


Marine litter is a growing global challenge affecting ecosystems and fisheries as well as the tourism industry. Plastics in particular, for instance packaging and disposable products such as straws and plastic bags, account for enormous quantities of marine litter. The amount of plastic waste finding its way into the ocean is particularly high in East and South-East Asia, affecting biological diversity. About half the world's plastics are produced in Asia.

Governments, businesses, academia, civil society and consumers are increasingly recognising the need for action. The initiatives of the G20, the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) were launched because plastic waste does not recognise borders. The initiatives in the EU include the European Strategy for Plastics and the new Circular Economy Action Plan. The ongoing exchange of information and more in-depth cooperation between the EU and the partner countries in East and South-East Asia therefore offer opportunities for both sides.


A circular economy for plastics in East and South-East Asia reduces plastic waste in the oceans. 


The project is based on cooperation between the EU and seven countries in East and South-East Asia. It helps countries in the region reduce plastic waste and improve its collection and recycling, thereby promoting a circular economy for plastics in order to reduce plastic waste leakage into the sea. The objective of the circular economy is to use resources more efficiently and sustainably according to the principle of reduce, reuse and recycle.

The project advises and supports the partners in matters relating to the circular economy and marine litter reduction. It is being realised jointly with Expertise France and implements measures with the following focal points:

  • Improving the management of plastic waste according to the waste hierarchy, for example through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and return and deposit systems for packaging and plastic products.
  • Promoting the sustainable consumption and sustainable production of plastics, for example through improved design for reuse and recyclability, and by using alternative materials.
  • Reducing marine plastic litter, for example through improved waste disposal for ships in harbours and ‘Fishing for Litter’ programmes in which fishers take waste they find in their nets to land for disposal.

In China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam, the project also supports more than 20 pilot projects that are testing new approaches in the three priority areas or propagating good examples. The project also builds awareness of reducing the use of plastic in daily life and promotes political dialogue between the EU and the partner countries on improved plastic waste management and the sustainable production of plastics. In Japan and Singapore, the project is aimed primarily at political dialogue and sustainable public procurement.

The transfer of knowledge is being promoted, e.g. through workshops and conferences, webinars, study trips and communication campaigns. Current topics include recycling standards for plastic waste, the implementation of EPR in the project countries and the question of how to reduce disposable plastic packaging for food deliveries and take-aways. A photo contest and a marine litter quiz for students have also already been held.

Last update: January 2021

Additional information