Australia, India and Singapore hosted the EAS (East Asia Summit) Hackathon on “Combating Marine Plastic” on 13–16 December 2022 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The EAS Hackathon was officiated by H.E. Will Nankervis, Ambassador of Australia to ASEAN, H.E. Jayant Khobragade, Ambassador of India to ASEAN, and Mr. Borg Tsien Tham, Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Permanent Mission of Singapore to ASEAN. Other EAS Ambassadors and officials, senior officials from the ASEAN Secretariat, civil society organisations, and private sector representatives were also in attendance.
This Hackathon follows the successful EAS Marine Plastic Debris Workshop held on 14‒15 February 2022. It was organized in collaboration with the Asia Foundation (TAF), the ASEAN Foundation, and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Expert input was provided by Singapore’s National Environment Agency and India’s National Centres for Ocean Information Services and Coastal Research.
Youths from EAS Participating Countries competed to create innovative digital applications that will help to monitor marine litter more accurately in hot spot areas and encourage businesses to minimize plastic use and recycle.
Marine plastic pollution is a serious environmental issue. Plastic waste makes up 80% of all marine pollution, and between 8 and 14 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year. There are about 50-75 trillion pieces of plastic and microplastics in the ocean, and it is predicted that plastic will outweigh all fish in the sea by 2050. This problem has a devastating impact, not only on marine life and ecosystems but also on food security and human health.
Various attempts have been initiated to overcome this problem, including imposing bans on single-use plastic, establishing waste processing banks, and encouraging efforts to recycle plastic waste. It is expected that the applications developed through this Hackathon would complement existing efforts to address this shared challenge.
In his remarks, Ambassador Nankervis said that “the problem of marine plastic will not be solved without the sustained engagement of young people.”
“To combat this issue, awareness and extensive participation from the government, private sector and society are crucial,” said Ambassador Jayant Khobragade.
Mr. Borg Tsien Tham underlined that “a hackathon like this provides a safe and exciting space to galvanize our youth to come up with fresh and creative ideas.”
The Hackathon saw the participation of teams from 13 EAS Participating Countries namely: Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
During the Hackathon, participating teams were mentored by a team of experts. Through a competitive evaluation process by a judging panel composed of technology experts, marine plastic experts, and entrepreneurs.
Team representing Cambodia, Chanrithisak Phok and Bunnet Phoung, was selected as the first-place winner of the EAS Hackathon. They have succeeded in creating customer loyalty-based application that enable consumers to reduce plastic use. This application is connected to a variety of merchants, ranging from culinary to daily necessities. Consumers, who make purchases at these merchants without using plastic, would be able to scan the provided QR code to get rewards in exchange through the application.
The second award and the third award went to teams representing the Republic of Korea, Gu Hong Min and To Hong Min, and Malaysia, Hoh Jia Da and Oscar Ling Fang Jack respectively.
“We are honored to be the winner and thrilled as we will have a chance to present our ideas to important stakeholders. Hopefully, the CSIRO’s incubator program and the network we have built (during the Hackathon) will help us to develop our application, and in the end, make an impact on society and environment,” said Chanrithisak Phok and Bunnet Phoung, the winning team from Cambodia.
Phok further added that their idea was inspired by the data they found, one of which is that the food and beverage business contributes 31% to plastic waste pollution at sea.
Besides a regional speaking opportunity, the first-place winner received a cash prize of $7,000 USD and will participate in the incubator program at CSIRO’s Plastic Innovation Hub.
“Engaging the youth is crucial in raising awareness about marine plastic,” said Dr. Yang Mee Eng, Executive Director of ASEAN Foundation. “We believe in the power of youth to be part of the solution. Looking at the submissions, I found ground-breaking ideas and innovations that have great potential to alleviate the problem. We hope that this Hackathon will pave the way for research, innovation and greater public awareness, especially among young people.”