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APEC guideline: Avoiding plastics in the environment through organised waste management

The Oceans and Fisheries Working Group (OFWG) of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) has published a guide to provide smaller cities and municipalities in the Asia-Pacific economic region with the knowledge to set up reliable waste collection systems to help reduce the land-sourced discharge of waste into the oceans. Using successful projects, the guide aims to show how waste can be collected and recycled at source very efficiently and cost-effectively using technologically simple means. WWF, the World Wide Fund for Nature, was also involved in an exemplary pilot project in the Vietnamese city of Tan An.

With the strategy outlined in its guide, the APEC working group is pursuing an approach in which the disposal of plastic waste is integrated into household waste collection and disposal systems. Such integration into existing systems, APEC believes, can better address plastic pollution of the oceans at the municipal level in developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region than establishing separate collection and recycling systems for plastic waste. This is because much of the plastic waste that then ends up in the oceans is due to inadequate waste management, he said. The implementation guide is intended to provide practical guidance to medium-sized and smaller cities and municipalities in particular on how to develop, introduce and operate cost-effective and efficient collection and disposal systems. In the projects presented, the first part of the disposal chain, the collection phase, proved to be crucial, it says. In addition, the informal sector plays an important role in setting up the collection systems and should then also be integrated into municipal waste management systems, it said. This requires active management and community participation. Municipalities should develop, organise and regulate waste management systems with the participation of the informal sector and other waste market players. To this end, he said, the guide provides guidance and presents organisational models that take into account different framework conditions in the communities. According to APEC, the guide's recommendations are largely based on lessons learned from a pilot project conducted in the city of Tan An, the capital of Long An Province in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, in 2020 and 2021 in collaboration with WWF. The focus of the project was on immediately testing the sorting quality directly at source during the collection of household waste. To this end, small collection vehicles with simple sorting equipment were used in the test area, at which previously trained waste collectors re-sorted household waste into recyclables, organics and residual waste. In addition, households were made aware during collection of the correct way to sort the waste. As a result, the quality of pre-sorting by households improved very quickly. The collection and sorting concept has proved so successful that, according to a decision by the municipal authorities, it is to be extended to the entire city and later to the entire province.

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