Southeast Asia Circular Economy on the Rise

December 13, 2023

Carlo Chen-Delantar, Partner and Head of ESG and Circular Economy at Gobi Partners, delivered a compelling presentation at the ASEAN Circular Economy Forum (ACEF) 2023 held in Jakarta, Indonesia on November 8, 2023. His focus was on shedding light on the Southeast Asia circular economy startup scene, unveiling significant trends and prospects.

The circular economy market in Southeast Asia, though presently smaller than that of other emerging regions, is experiencing rapid growth. Forecasts indicate that by 2030, its market value is expected to soar to US$1.5 trillion. Among the Southeast Asian nations, Malaysia leads with a market value of US$105 billion, followed closely by Indonesia at US$95 billion.

Over the past five years, the Southeast Asian circular economy has exhibited steady growth. Funding for this sector is anticipated to hover around US$500 million in 2023, with expectations of continued expansion in the coming years. Presently, there are over 90 recorded circular economy startups in the region, showcasing a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem dedicated to sustainable practices.

An alarming fact that Chen-Delantar emphasised is that over 53% of Southeast Asian waste goes uncollected each year. Furthermore, less than a quarter of the collected waste is recycled, underscoring the urgent need for innovative solutions in waste management and recycling.

The top sectors within the Southeast Asian circular economy are plastics, electronic waste, fashion, and food waste. These sectors are pivotal in addressing the region's environmental challenges and contributing to a more sustainable and resilient future.

As Southeast Asia continues to grapple with waste management issues, the circular economy emerges as a vital solution, offering economic benefits while mitigating environmental impact. The insights shared by Carlo Chen-Delantar at ACEF 2023 provide a glimpse into the promising future of the circular economy in Southeast Asia, where innovation and sustainability intersect to foster positive change.