International representatives from the government and private sectors across Southeast Asia vowed to cooperate to address resource constraints through the circular economy with a focus on “resource maximisation, waste separation and proper disposal” in the manufacturing and consumption cycle at a symposium in Bangkok on Monday.
The circular economy refers to an economic system that seeks to combat pollution and achieve sustainable development by reusing and recycling used products.
More than 1,500 delegates participated in the 10th annual Sustainable Development Symposium titled Circular Economy: The Collaboration for Action, organised by Thailand’s Siam Cement Group (SCG).
UN Resident Coordinator in Thailand Deirdre Boyd said: “Accelerating natural resource extraction is placing a profound burden on the global environment.”
The circular economy promotes responsible consumption and production, which is the object of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and could have positive impacts on many of the other sustainable development goals, she said.
“[With] the reuse and recycling of materials throughout the economy, the circular economy will help reduce waste and unsustainable environmental extraction.”
She told Viet Nam News: “The evolution in our understanding of the limits of our planets’ scarce resources means we now have to place this issue at the core of our plans going forward.”
Businesses around the world are striving to come up with innovation to facilitate the transition from the linear economy to the circular economy, she said.
“We still have gaps in policy and regulations, and we need massive shifts in consumer attitude and behaviour.
“We also need the private sector to embody the Sustainable Development Goals agenda. Without the private sector, it would be impossible to create global impacts.”
SCG president and CEO Roongrote Rangsiyopash said: “The increase in global population will inevitably have an impact on the surrounding environment, including the depletion of natural resources, marine debris and intensified global warming, among others.”
With an ever-growing population the world is expected to reach an estimated 9.7 billion in 2050, resulting in rising consumption demands despite finite resources, he said.
Last year they contributed 28 million tonnes of waste, and without proper waste management and disposal practices, waste would leak into the oceans triggering a loss of marine bio-diversity, as recently evidenced by the death of the dugong calf Mariam, he said.
“The concept of the circular economy is a solution to help alleviate these problems as it promotes the regenerative model of make-use-return.
He told Viet Nam News: “The concept also includes the approaches of resource maximisation, waste separation and proper disposal to preserve natural resources for the next generations.”
He said government-driven infrastructure development, stringent regulations and strict waste management would not be enough to achieve a circular economy.
Collaboration by all sectors is crucial to make the circular economy a reality, he said.
Speaking at a breakout session, Pham Hoang Hai, partnership development head of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development, said: “The development of the circular economy in Vietnam is an indispensable need and must be implemented.”
Vietnamese businesses have become more aware of the circular economy, especially in the context of global economic integration with commitments on ecological and environmental safety standards through free trade agreements, he said.
A number of projects by scientists and Vietnamese and foreign organisations have been implemented in Vietnam to recycle plastic waste and usher in green production and green consumption, he said.
But the circular economy is still a new concept for many Vietnamese businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, he added.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade is in the process of drafting a National Action Programme on Sustainable Production and Consumption, which he said would be implemented in 2021-30.
The symposium served as a platform for exchange of ideas, experiences and knowledge.
It was first held in 2010, and has since been held every year.
The annual event has allowed the sharing of knowledge between many people ranging from youth to key opinion leaders in more than 20 countries.