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Every year on June 5th, countries across the globe come together to commemorate World Environment Day (WEP). Lead by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), this day is dedicated to celebrating the commitment of governments, private sector, and individuals in fostering a greener future.

This year, the spotlight is on plastic pollution. With the theme “Solutions to Plastic Pollution”, WEP 2023 dovetails with a significant concern in the ASEAN region in recent years – the prevalence of plastic waste and its implications for disaster management.

The ASEAN region is an epicentre of rapid economic growth and urbanisation. With progress, however, comes the heavy reliance on plastics, especially single-use varieties. This proliferation of plastic, added with an underdeveloped waste management infrastructure, has resulted in several ASEAN Member States being among the top contributors of mismanaged plastic waste.1

For ASEAN, the link between addressing plastic pollution and strengthening disaster management is clear and compelling. In urban settings, plastic debris may clog drainage systems, turning monsoon rains into devastating floods. This in turn may exacerbate the region’s vulnerability to disasters caused by natural hazards, particularly in member states like the Philippines and Vietnam, which are frequently hit by tropical cyclones. By mitigating plastic waste, the region can significantly reduce its susceptibility to flooding, particularly in urban areas.

Moreover, a cleaner environment ensures that post-disaster clean-up, rehabilitation, and recovery efforts are more streamlined. A landscape free from plastic waste ensures that natural buffers, like mangroves along coastlines, can thrive and protect coastal communities from storm surges.

The commemoration of World Environment Day in 2023 offers a reminder for ASEAN nations to not only highlight the region’s challenges but also to showcase its solutions. Several initiatives have sprouted across the region, emphasising recycling, waste management, and the promotion of eco-friendly alternatives to plastics.

In Vietnam, for example, the Law on Environmental Protection officially came into force in 2022, with the supplement of regulations on plastic waste reduction, recycling, reuse, and treatment.2 Meanwhile, Thailand’s ban on major single-use plastic items is another stride in the right direction.3

To beat plastic pollution and strengthen disaster resilience, the road ahead requires a collaborative approach. Leveraging World Environment Day, ASEAN can foster partnerships — within the region and globally — to share knowledge, resources, and best practices.

Through concerted efforts, regional collaboration, and the momentum of global platforms like World Environment Day, ASEAN is poised to turn the tide, championing a future where sustainability and resilience go hand in hand.


1Bosquet, B. (2023, June 4). Beyond borders: Collaborative solutions to plastic pollution in Southeast Asia. World Bank Blogs.
2VNA. (2022, September 7). Vietnam takes bold action to tackle plastic waste. VietnamPlus.
3Thai PBS World. (2023, July 1). New phase of single-use plastic bag reduction to be launched on July 3rd. Thai PBS World.

Written by: Gladys Respati