To help advance partnerships for sustainability, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong attended the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok. The event was held from June 22 to 23.
The meeting of leaders was aimed at fortifying ASEAN centrality and unity and taking ASEAN forward. The 10-member regional grouping is working towards a digital, green and seamlessly connected region.
“They will also exchange views on ASEAN’s external relations, and discuss regional and international issues,” a spokesperson from the office of the Prime Minister said prior to the event.
Leaders who participated in the summit were expected to create a vision for sustainability and an operational plan to resolve marine pollution, as well as draft a framework of ideas on the Indo-Pacific concept.
This was the first of two meetings among ASEAN leaders that Thailand hosted as ASEAN Chair in 2019. The second will be held in November, with leaders of other nations invited to attend related meetings including the East Asia Summit.
Mr. Lee was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing. During his absence, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat served as acting Prime Minister.
Singapore’s plastic issue
A position paper presented by the Singapore Environment Council in 2011 revealed that Singaporeans used and consumed three billion plastic bags in that year alone. In recent reports from the NEA, it showed that in 2018, 7.70 million tonnes of solid waste was generated This means that everyone of the 5.6 million Singaporeans threw away over 135 kg of plastic each.
This wouldn’t be so much of an issue if all of Singapore’s waste is disposed of correctly, however, a good quantity of plastic unavoidably ends up in the ocean due to litter being blown into the ocean, litter floating out through the drainage system, or dumping by offshore farms and ships.
These plastic pieces then drift through the ocean or settle on the ocean bed. After a while, the plastic starts to break up into smaller beads of plastic known as microplastic. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), plastics do not fully degrade, instead, they continuously break into smaller pieces of plastic, until they can no longer be broken up.
Marine pollution in Singapore
Kelly Ng, a news writer from TodayOnline wrote about a study being carried out in 2017, which showed that while existing data at that time offered a snapshot of the marine waste situation in Singapore, a “higher resolution data” was necessary to assist stakeholders in tracing the source of waste.
In the said study, microplastics, which generally ranged from 10 nanometres to 5mm in size, have triggered so much concern among scientists because of their utter ubiquity and effects which are not yet fully known.
Dr. Serena Teo, deputy director of research at the Tropical Marine Science Institute gave a statement to TodayOnline saying that beyond monitoring, Singapore should do more to develop “sustainable solutions to replace and reduce use of plastic and other poorly degradable materials.”
“Monitoring and clean-up is all fine and good, but the time has come to take a big step further as we produce plastic faster than we can ever hope to clear up. So on the technology and industry end, we seriously need to ramp up efforts,” she said. “Otherwise, the efforts of the many (members of the) public who are trying to clean up is futile… We have to also ask ourselves what useful things can we do with all the plastic waste after it is collected.” -/TISG