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I am delighted to circulate an announcement and important background information from Professor Sara Seck, Associate Professor of Law; Yogis and Keddy Chair in Human Rights Law, Associate Dean, Research, Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University:
A webinar on the theme of Addressing Plastic Waste Through Responsible Business Conduct: Experiences from Southeast Asia will be held on Wednesday March 16 from 5-7am ET (10-12am CET/ 4-6pm Indochina time) [registration required to receive zoom link: https://www.rscaevents.com/addressing-plastic-waste-in-se-asia]. Organized by the OECD, UNEP, the ILO, and SEA Circular, this session is designed to explore how responsible business conduct (RBC) and extended producer responsibilities (EPR) can address plastic waste in Southeast Asia.
The extent of the plastics problem was brought to my attention a year ago when I was approached to contribute to the project ‘SEA circular – Reducing marine litter by addressing the management of the plastic value chain in Southeast Asia’, jointly implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Coordinating Body on the Seas of East Asia (COBSEA), with funding from the Government of Norway. My initial task was to gather together in a Plastics Toolbox a comprehensive set of resources (good practices and cross-cutting guidance) on human rights-based approaches to plastic pollution prevention and management of the plastic value chain, with a focus on capacity building of governments and businesses in the East Asian Seas region. We are currently working on the second phase of the project, which is to develop teaching materials drawing upon the toolbox. The materials in the plastics toolbox were gathered by MELAW researchers working under my supervision from May to August 2021 and updated in November 2021. As this is an incredibly rapidly moving area (recent developments including the UNEA 5.2’s resolution on negotiating a plastics treaty), we plan to update the toolbox again over the next few months and welcome information on additional resources or approaches that are not covered in the current version. [Sara.Seck@dal.ca]
Among key recent reports addressing the plastics problem are UNEP’s 2021 Global Assessment of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution, the OECD’s Global Plastics Outlook (released in February 2022), and the Special Rapporteur on human rights and toxic substances’ 2021 report The stages of the plastics cycle and their impact on human rights (A/76/207). From a human rights perspective, what is clear is that plastic pollution contributes to violations of many internationally recognized human rights including the rights to life, the highest attainable standard of health, a healthy environment, water and sanitation, and adequate food. Failure to prevent and manage plastic pollution adversely affects rights to equality and non-discrimination, and the impacts of plastic pollution are exacerbated due to a lack of respect for procedural environmental human rights to information, participation, and access to effective remedy. While the plastics crisis is a global issue, its impacts are disproportionately felt by those at heightened risk of human rights violations, including workers, children, and people living in poverty. It will clearly not be an easy problem to solve, and from a business and human rights perspective requires grappling with the potential and limitations of circular economy and extended producer responsibility solutions, as well as implications for informal workers, notably waste pickers who play a key and often underappreciated role in plastics waste management.
The event description reads as follows:Microplastics are now ubiquitous in the natural environment, and plastic waste and pollution are threatening ecosystems and livelihoods across Southeast Asia. Asia is both a hotspot for plastic pollution as well as a range of innovative measures designed to curb plastic pollution. Businesses are increasingly finding innovative ways to reduce plastic waste and transition to a more resource-efficient and circular economy.
Systemic approaches to achieving sustainable value chains will contribute to building more prosperous, resilient and inclusive economies and societies. An equitable transition that provides opportunities for decent work will not happen automatically, however, targeted interventions and collective responses by the private sector are required. Market assessments of plastics circularity, waste, and pollution are needed to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics, increase collection and recyclability, and promote innovation.
Through this webinar, UNEP, the ILO, and OECD will explore how businesses can address plastic waste through responsible business conduct and Extended Producer Responsibilities (EPR) in Southeast Asia. Participants will showcase innovative business practices for plastic circularity and highlight actions being taken to help businesses, governments, and communities to shift away from business as usual to a more inclusive, sustainable, and resource-efficient economy.