Economic growth and changing lifestyles in Lao PDR over the past 20 years mean that people now generate twice as much household waste, much of it not properly disposed of. A new report from the World Bank shows where waste comes from and where it ends up, and shows that this pollution can have serious effects on human health, the environment and the economy.
The new World Bank report, Get CLEAN and GREEN — Solid and Plastic Waste Management in Lao PDR, supported by the Korean Green Growth Trust Fund and PROBLUE, also offers recommendations on how to better control solid waste and plastic pollution. and is used by the government as a key part of a National Plastics Action Plan.
Almost a quarter of the waste found in Lao cities is plastic. Plastic waste is now found everywhere in the environment of Laos, affecting fish catches, blocking sewers, causing air pollution and harming tourist destinations. The World Bank found that in six Lao cities, 95% of plastic pollution is caused by just ten items, all single-use plastics. Single-use food and drink packaging is the top category of plastic products, accounting for nearly half of this pollution, and the hospitality and tourism sectors have been identified as a key contributor. Around 10,000 deaths each year in Laos are due to environmental health factors, with nearly half of these attributable to air pollution, to which the burning of plastics and other household waste is a major contributor.
According to Alex Kremer, Country Director of the World Bank in Lao PDR, this report shows how plastic waste is damaging the incomes and health of Laotians. “Flooded streets, bronchitis, job losses in tourism and reduced fish catches – these are some of the ways plastic waste can affect the country,” Kremer said. “But fortunately, there are simple solutions. For example, many countries have banned lightweight plastic bags or disposable plates and plastic bottles in restaurants. As a result, less waste is created, sights look better, sewers clog less often, and children breathe less smoke from burning plastic.
The Lao government is committed to addressing the challenge of solid waste and plastics, through the National Plastics Action Plan, supported by the World Bank and the EU Switch Asia Facility. The plan envisions a “circular economy” approach to help deliver the government’s National Green Growth Strategy 2030.
This transition requires a change in behavior at each stage of a product’s life in the economy: from research and development, through the design and selection of materials, to manufacturing, transport and distribution, and finally the management of use and end of life.
To achieve this, the new report offers a roadmap for plastics policy and a ten-step roadmap to guide the development of the National Plastics Action Plan. Four types of measures will reduce plastic pollution and consumption: regulatory change supported by enforcement, economic incentives, education and awareness, and voluntary approaches and agreements.