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Asian Plastic Circular Economy Innovations

“We will go to war!” These were the words of Philippine’s firebrand president Duterte during a long-running row over waste exports between Canada and his country. In 2016 a Philippine court had declared the import of 2,400 tonnes of Canadian waste illegal. It had been mislabeled as plastics for recycling. Last month, the 69 containers of waste were sent back to Vancouver. 

More and more Asian countries are taking a strong stance in the wake of China’s National Sword policy which started a ban on foreign waste imports from early 2018 onwards.  

This also coincides with a spike in popular interest in the topic of plastic pollution. 7 out of 10 countries worldwide where the Google search terms “plastic pollution” and “plastic waste” index the highest are Asian countries. (for more details on this, you can contact us)

In the wake of this trend, we are witnessing a surge of entrepreneurial inititatives in Asia that address the problem of plastic waste and pollution through innovations. We highlight a few of these ecopreneurs in this Ubuntoo Digest. 

You can use your Ubuntoo login to browse our solutions as you read this newsletter. 


We highlight only a few innovations in this newsletter. For a more comprehensive overview, enter Asia in the location search option on the Solutions page of Ubuntoo. 

  • Biomaterials: the avalaibility of bio-based feedstock in the region is creating an ideal ecosystem for the use of biomaterials as an alternative to fossil fuel-based plastics. For example:
    • India-based Chuk makes tableware from sugarcane waste. 
    • In Singapore, RWDC has worked on a PHA biopolymer that replaces PE, PP, and Polystyrene and is designed for use across a broad range of applications. 
    • In Thailand, UBPack has created “zero-waste packaging” from cassava and bamboo. 
    • Jakarta-based Evoware makes edible packaging from seaweeds while Algar in Japan is creating biodegradable packaging materials from algae. 
  • Technology: Asia has always been at the forefront of technology and it is no different for the waste management industry. For example: 
    • Solu in the Philippines is a decentralized waste management platform and marketplace that monetizes waste at a grassroots level 
    • Taipei-based Lidbot has created smart bins with fill-level sensors. : 
    • Recyglo is Myanmar’s first technology-enabled waste management solution and marketplace. 
    • Mumbai-based rePurpose is a social tech startup that empowers waste workers while allowing people around the world to reduce their waste footprint.


Ubuntoo member Gina Lee points out that the stat that 10 rivers, mostly in Asia, are responsible for 90% of Ocean plastic pollution is incorrect. You can read the science-based rationale here

Ubuntoo member Xenia Tombrou would appreciate your inputs on her question: The waste management system on the Greek Islands is broken - What are best practices for an island or community to go zero waste? 


The 2016 documentary “Plastic China” by Jiuliang Wang is a masterful depiction of the struggles and hopes of a Chinese family operating a recycling business. Some claim that it was one of the factors that accelerated China’s national sword policy. 

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"Green won't come out of the blue." 

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Peter & Venky

June 27, 2019
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