Every year, almost 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans. Marine plastic pollution threatens marine species, ocean health, food safety and quality, human health, coastal tourism and contributes to climate change.
It also has a severe impact on our economies.
“The economic loss due to marine plastic pollution is estimated to reach $14 billion annually due to damaged fisheries and reduced tourism,” the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS) in Jakarta said in a press release.
Marine plastic pollution is a global issue.
“Marine plastic pollution is a global concern and it is a transboundary issue that requires collaborative action,” Vong Sok, ASEAN Secretariat’s Head of Environment Division, said in his inaugural remarks at the finals of a youth video contest in Jakarta on Friday (Oct.8).
The contest was virtually organized jointly by the CSEAS and the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA) to raise awareness about marine plastic pollution among ASEAN youth and educate them on how to use the digital platform to express their creative and innovative ideas about reducing plastic pollution.
With the theme “Reducing Plastic Pollution toward Sustainable Lifestyle”, the contest also aimed to support the ASEAN Regional Action Plan for combating marine debris in ASEAN member states.
“The ASEAN Secretariat is very happy with this event due to the contribution of the ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Combating Marine Debris and the role of youth is needed to find the solution,” Vong said.
According to Trisha Dantiani, a contestant from the University of Indonesia, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines are the sole contributors of 57 percent of plastic debris in oceans across the globe. Four countries out of five biggest polluters in the world are from Southeast Asia.
Indonesia is the second biggest producer of marine plastic debris in the world after China. It is an alarming situation.
In an effort to help ASEAN member states in combating plastic pollution, Norway, a small Nordic country but very influential in fighting marine plastic pollution, is fully cooperating with ASEAN to achieve the latter’s climate change goals.
“Ocean sustainability and marine health is one of Norway’s main policy priorities and also a key component in our cooperation with ASEAN,” Valentin Musungwa, second secretary at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Jakarta, said at the event.
Norway has an ambitious plan to become climate neutral by 2030 and a “low carbon society” by 2050.
In fact, the contest was organized as part of the ASEAN-Norwegian Cooperation Project on Local Capacity Building for Reducing Plastic Pollution in the ASEAN Region (ASEANO).
“One of the components of the ASEANO Project is education. Awareness in the young generation is important to reduce plastic pollution in ASEAN,” Musungwa said.
Youth can play a key role in combating marine plastic pollution in the future.
“An informed, engaged and committed mass of young people can help … to combat plastic pollution in respect to ASEAN countries and the region as well,” Musungwa said.
The video contest was aimed at engaging youth in the campaign to combat plastic pollution.
“This competition is part of our effort to encourage youth to participate in the global discourse on plastic pollution through their creative ideas and campaigning the negative impact of plastic pollution. They can give their ideas for alternative solutions,” Arisman, Executive Director of CSEAS as well as a member of the panel of judges, said.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, a record 150 young people from Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand submitted their entries. Every participant must make a 3-minute long creative video in line with the theme.
The panel of judges, comprising of experts from Facebook, Google, BBC, CNN, ASEAN Foundation and NIVA, selected 10 finalists. The panel of judges selected Tayzar Min Aung from Yangon University of Economics, Myanmar, Le Thu Thuy from the Academy of Journalism and Communication, Vietnam, and Trisha from the University of Indonesia as the winners.
Each winner will receive a cash prize of US$750 each.
There is no shortage of talent among participates, who came up with several creative ideas to convey the message to reduce plastic pollution.
“It is time to stop. We need character education building for the younger generation to combat plastic pollution toward a sustainable lifestyle,” said Diandra Syifa Aulia from Diponegero University, Semarang, Indonesia, in her video.
Is plastic a wonderful thing?
“Plastics are wonderful because they are durable. And it is awful because it is durable,”said Tayzar, who won the first prize in the contest.
Many contestants conveyed that doing simple things like avoiding usage of plastics individually may bring major change in the world. Who knows, maybe one day we will be free from marine plastic debris.