Accelerating the circular economy for post-consumer PET bottles in Southeast Asia

In order to drive higher collection of post-consumer packaging for recycling, it is vital to move beyond single company efforts and instead collaborate on industry-wide efforts which pull material through the value chain through boosting the value of the packaging material. 


The report provides for the first time, systematic and comparable baseline collection rates for PET bottles (one of the most recyclable forms of plastic packaging) in Southeast Asia and highlights the need for a fundamental shift in the approach to driving circularity of PET bottles. The six countries studied (Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia) account for a total population of over 600 million people, more than the population of all the EU’s 28 countries. Five of these six countries are among the top ten global contributors to ocean plastic leakage.

This report finds that:


The collected-for-recycling rate for PET bottles in the six countries is on average 54% at the city level (based on nine representative cities) and is estimated to be 26% at the national level.
Across the six countries, a total of 660,000 tonnes of PET bottles was landfilled or leaked into the environment in 2018. This represents a loss of material value of US$199 million.
The informal sector is the backbone of collection for PET bottles, contributing to 97% of all PET that is collected-for-recycling in the nine cities studied – and thus any solutions for Southeast Asia must include the informal sector.
The recommended systemic solution to drive circularity is the implementation of an industry-led PRO focused on boosting the value chain by implementing a price incentive that also benefits the informal sector, supporting policies, the use of recycled content in packaging, and investments into increasing domestic recycling capacity.
Similar models have seen success in comparable developing markets (South Africa and Mexico) which, through voluntary industry efforts, have increased PET collection and recycling rates to over 55% in each country. South Africa now has a 68% recycling rate for PET bottles, with 100% of the material recycled within South Africa.


GA Circular calls on companies and industry in Southeast Asia to adopt voluntary Packaging Recovery Organisations (PROs) focused on value creation mechanisms and material end markets; and for governments to support with enabling policies and standards for the circular economy, such as food grade recycled content standards, recycled content targets and source separation and separate collection.


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“The report aims to shed light on the current realities for post-consumer packaging in Southeast Asia. A realistic baseline is critical in informing the direction and nature of solutions to be implemented. It is our sincere hope that the recommendations outlined in this report are fully considered by industry, policymakers and investors”


Ashwin Subramaniam

Founder and CEO of GA Circular


“The report delivers a first-of-its-kind analysis of collection-for-recycling rates for PET plastic in key ASEAN cities and frames up a circular economy roadmap for post-consumer PET plastic packaging specifically tailored for the region, with a concrete set of recommendations geared towards interventions with the highest impact. At Coca-Cola, we are committed to executing these recommendations with our partners, and we have already begun to move in earnest. It is our hope that this report also helps to drive broader understanding, coordination and momentum in our shared efforts to tackle marine plastic pollution in Southeast Asia and globally”


Michael Goltzman

Vice President of Global Policy and Sustainability at The Coca-Cola Company.

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GA Circular is a research and strategy firm specialising in circular economy, recycling and waste management. GA Circular’s mission is to create a world without waste by driving the transition to a circular economy in Asia. GA Circular collaborates with companies, government, international foundations, investors and multilateral agencies to unlock business opportunities from fast-growing streams of food and packaging waste across Asia. 


Established in 2011, GA Circular is a B Corporation certified social business. GA Circular is headquartered in Singapore and operates throughout Southeast Asia and Southwest Asia.


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Laura Allen | Co-founder & Chief Operations Officer