Plastic, as a material, has revolutionized the way we package food, distribute it and safely consume it. It is estimated that packaging accounts for more than a quarter of plastic worldwide, increasing the shelf life of many products and making food shopping more convenient for billions.

However, the world is waking up to the long-lasting impact that inappropriate management of plastic packaging is having on our environment, especially in our oceans. Ways to address the plastic problem are now being discussed at the Fourth UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi.

In some parts of the world such as Southeast Asia, the leakage of waste into the ocean has reached critical proportions, with four countries in the region contributing an estimated 30 per cent—or about 2.4 million tonnes—of all ocean plastic waste. This has not gone unnoticed among Asia’s food and beverage manufacturers members of Food Industry Asia, who are keen to address this environmental threat.

“We would like to strengthen industry partnerships with international organizations and UN Member States on marine waste and solid waste management,” says Edwin Seah, the association’s Head of Sustainability and Communications.

“Our members are very interested in innovation in packaging. As an industry, we want to work closely with governments on policy development, waste management, collection and recycling,” says Seah, who has over the past year participated in several events organized by UN Environment’s Asia office in Bangkok.